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Newsletter March 2021

Final event on July 6th 2021 - call for abstracts open

The IDEA final event will be organized as an online event on July 6th to share IDEA findings and interact with other projects like ValgOrize. Besides plenary presentations, break-out discussion sessions and virtual tours, an e-poster session is being prepared. The latter is open to external contribution. A call for abstracts has been launched. E-posters may consist of pdf-versions of classical posters or short pre-recorded presentations related to aspects of algae-value chains. As they will be available via the IDEA website during and after the event, the e-posters offer possibilities to share results with a broad audience. All parties interested in presenting an e-poster are invited to submit an abstract by April 30th, 2021. More detailed information is available on the IDEA website.

Microalgae as a protein-rich and beneficial health ingredient for use in pet treat production

There is a growing demand for protein-rich pet foods and several companies offer at least one alternative protein product in their portfolio. Despite a trend in Western countries for alternatives to meat-sourced proteins, meat consumption globally has increased, as has pet ownership. In the near future, it is likely that the demand for high-quality meat-sourced proteins for pet food use may not be sustainable due to competition for use as a food ingredient (= competition with human food).  In addition to this, in Europe and America, pet owners are moving increasingly towards consumption of plant-sourced proteins such as pea and potato proteins and there is growing competition in terms of price in the plant-based protein sector. Furthermore, there is a growing market for functional health ingredients in pet food products that have increased health or nutritional benefits in terms of general wellness or address specific health concerns such as digestion, joint and cartilage function, immune system strength or dental health[1]. Microalgae offer potential for use as protein-rich ingredients in pet feeds and treats. Microalgae produce a variety of ingredients via conversion of CO2, nutrients and light, and offer potential as a renewable source of protein. The role of Teagasc (Food Biosciences Department, Ireland) in the IDEA project is to sustainably process microalgae into value-added food and feed ingredients, in particular protein-rich ingredients, using novel processes.

As part of the IDEA project, the microalgae Spirulina sp. (purchased, processed by TEAGASC) and Nannochloropsis sp. (Grown in Sunbuilt-Belgium, processed by VITO) were characterized for their protein, ash and lipid content and their potential health-benefits for pets assessed using a suite of bioassays available at Teagasc Ashtown. High blood pressure in dogs is systolic blood pressure exceeding 150 mm Hg. Blood pressure above 150 mm Hg can cause dogs to experience the negative effects of high blood pressure and require medication. Signs of hypertension in dogs relate to the eyes, heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Eye issues include intraocular bleeding and retinal detachment. In relation to heart health, dogs often experience heart murmurs and congestive heart failure, which can include coughing and an increased respiratory rate. Neurological signs include blindness, altered mental activity and a change in the balance of the dog. Renal signs include protein in the urine and progressive signs of renal failure including increased urination, poor appetite, vomiting, and tiredness [2]. Early signs of high blood pressure can be asymptomatic and are more likely to be associated with the aging process. Microalgae were screened for their ability to inhibit the enzyme Angiotensin-I-converting enzyme (ACE 1; EC This enzyme is central to the control of salt-water balance and blood pressure in humans but also in several mammals including dogs and cats [3]. Inhibition of this enzyme helps to maintain normotensive blood pressure. In humans, dogs and cats pharmaceutical drugs help to reduce blood pressure. However, these drugs have several negative side effects including a dry cough, night sweats and in some instances oedema (fluid retention) and pressure on kidneys. Moreover, administering oral drugs to dogs and cats can prove difficult.

The protein, ash and lipid content of microalgae (fractions) and their ability to inhibit ACE-1 was determined. In respect to dog biscuits, Spirulina protein hydrolysates and defatted Nannochloropsis were given special attention as they were proved by TEAGASC to have good ACE-1 inhibiting properties.

Dog treat biscuits made with the microalgae in a recipe formulated at Teagasc Ashtown were used in a non-invasive dog feeding trial (Figures 2 and 3). Ten senior dogs aged between 8-13 years old were fed over a period of 28 days in a "matched design” trial where the four different biscuit recipes were assessed for their palatability, digestibility, blood pressure reducing effects and acceptability. Blood pressure was measured every second day in the experimental period. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure recordings were taken. Weight gain was also determined. At the end of the trial, it was found that dogs fed the Spirulina sp. biscuit treat gained weight but had less acceptance in terms of palatability compared to biscuits made using defatted Nannochloropsis sp. Both biscuit recipes cause a reduction in blood pressure in elderly dogs when assessed over a 28-day period.

Short updates

  • Also in winter algae biomass can be harvested! Within IDEA Chloromonas was selected as an algae species to grow in the winter because of its ability to grow and survive at low temperatures and with reduced light intensity. During February 2021, even when temperatures were below 0 °C,  Chloromonas was cultivated by Thomas More in 1500 L PBBs in Sunbuilt and the VITO submerged membrane-based MAF-technology was used by VITO for continuous harvesting of Chloromonas biomass and for medium re-use. Daily, 10% to 15% of the reactor volume was harvested without causing major drops in turbidity in the photobioreactor. The latter indicates that even higher harvesting percentages may be feasible. A medium recovery of 95% was realized and Chloromonas was shown to grow with 100% recycled medium during at least 4 weeks.
  • Inspiration tours being converted into virtual tours. Within the IDEA project plan, guided tours were foreseen for potential new algae farmers. The plan was to visit different stakeholders along the value chain to inspire potential algae-growers.  Earlier, in March 2019, such an inspiration tour was organized with visits to Dutch algae-related organizations.  The tours in France, Germany and Belgium were scheduled for 2020.  Because of COVID-19 it was not possible to organize these inspiration tours.  Instead, Innovatiesteunpunt, who is in the lead for this task, is elaborating virtual visits that will be made available via the IDEA website in 2021.
  • Have a look at our most recent scientific publications   

Any questions?