A €5m Horizon 2020 project aims to make microalgae extraction and cultivation more cost-effective and enable the ease in which food, nutraceuticals and cosmetics can be enriched.
Microalgae, a rich source of omega-3, protein and beta-carotene has gained popularity with manufacturers as a sustainable source of food and fuel.
The Valuable Products from Algae Using New Cultivation and Extraction Techniques (VALUEMAG) project was initiated on 26 April in Athens, Greece.
According to the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), the global market for products containing microalgae has an annual value of €6.4bn. European sales account for 5% of the total microalgae market.
Antonia Molino, manager of the project’s activities for ENEA, said: “This technology immobilises the algal cells on a thin layer to optimise the use of water and nutrients.
“The result is a very low consumption of these resources, the capture of CO2 from different production processes, and, above all, easy extraction of the high-value biological molecules – which are mostly antioxidants – like omega-3 and carotenoids.”
VALUEMAG is comprised of 11 research centres from nine countries (Italy, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, Austria, France, Slovakia and Cyprus).
The project hopes to reduce costs of microalgae production in order to allow the technology to become a competitive, durable alternative in the current market; current cultivation methods for microalgae are expensive, at around €6 per kilogramme.
VALUEMAG aims to significantly reduce the costs to €0.30 per kilogramme, using new technologies including magnetic cultivation procedures.
The ENEA has been given a financial contribution of more than 760,000 to help fund testing and research.
The project also supports job creation in local EU communities as ten technicians will be required for every 100,000m2 of algae.