The Interreg NWE project IDEA focusses on the whole value chain of micro-algae, going from algae growth (year-round) to the application of algae fractions. At the moment, the different steps already exist separately, but there is no whole value chain on industrial scale which can guarantee a consistent supply and procurement of quality algae. This newsletter is about year-round cultivation in NWEurope.
Year-round algae cultivation in NWEurope
IDEA aims at enabling the implementation of economic viable algae-based value chains in the cross-boundary rural area of NWEurope. In respect to the "algae biomass growth"-part of the value chain, IDEA planned to use existing pilot infrastructures to evaluate the year-round (> 11 months/year) cultivation of algae in NWEurope. More specifically, focus on improving algae growth yield in NWE-climate/conditions and explore cold-tolerant species allowing to extend the algae growth season, preferably with minimal use of artificial light (preferably with a minimal use of artificial light and heating).
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH is our German partner in this project. They have two types of photobioreactors:
V-bags in a greenhouse
Green wall systems in open air
Two of the Belgian partners (VITO and Thomas More) in the project have tubular photobioreactors installed in a greenhouse coupled to a semi-automated harvesting system & cooled storage tanks:
Approach of the research
We identified algae species that are likely to grow well in cold conditions with low light as is typical for winters in NWE. Lab trials were initiated to evaluate the selected 'new strains' and a first selection was made.
We composed sets of algae for each growth location envisioning that they can be altered to cover the year. The algae sets comprise different types of algae strains:
The known strains that partners are already familiar with for cultivation and harvest in their specific growth system. It mostly concerns strains that have a good growth in the warmer seasons from April to September.
The category 'new strains' refers to strains that were selected for their potential good growth in Winter (October - March) in the lower temperatures and reduced light of NWE.
At the moment algae sets have been defined for each location and are being evaluated at pilot scale:
The Sunbuilt installation (in Belgium) focusses on axenic strains using Nannochloropsis gaditana as summer strain, Porphydrium purpureum as autumn and spring algae and a third algae in Winter.
FZJ in Germany uses a mixed culture comprising different algae species which relative composition changes during the year.
During this year (2019) there will be pilot tests with selected strains.
For 2020 we are planning on doing a demonstration of the year-round cultivation.