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Newsletter May 2020

The IDEA project is progressing well. Contacts with stakeholders are considered crucial for the project, to understand their needs and to disseminate IDEA project findings. A range of stakeholders linked to feed sector were informed by Feed design Lab about algae and the IDEA project. Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) took the lead in organising an IDEA workshop (1/2020) targeting a widened range of stakeholders with special attention to algae growers. The event was linked to a field visit where year round cultivation of algae is being studied, as detailed below.  We are preparing additional IDEA events to share project finding. We hope to have the opportunity to welcome you at one of the events!

Feed sector informed about algae and IDEA by Feed Design Lab

Feed Design Lab is involved in developments of algae for use in feeds for animals since 2014.
Last year a meeting for partners of Feed Design Lab was organised in September 2019 about the developments in new raw materials for feed. The interested partners were informed about the developments in the Netherlands related to use of algae in animal feed. Algae can be used as raw material in feed targeting nutritional values, but there is also the possibility to use algae as a health promoting additive.

Feed Design Lab partners were informed about developments in our project, where use of algae in feed is being evaluated. Currently, two of the IDEA partners VITO (Belgium) and TEAGASC (Ireland) are finalising in vitro trials with algae biomass related to digestibility and health promoting aspects.  Feed Design Lab studied different approaches to incorporate algae in feed pellets. The next step is to perform animal trials with feed pellets containing algae grown within the IDEA project.  For these animal experiments, companies are searched by FDL to cooperate in a challenging experiment with piglets. Meanwhile, algae growth and harvesting is ongoing in algae pilot plants in Belgium (Sunbuilt: Thomas More & VITO) and Germany (Forschungszentrum Jülich) to collect sufficient amounts of algae biomass. The trials are scheduled for autumn 2020.

Example of feed pellets with algae that will be produced:

The same information was given during a meeting with the Dutch Algae Platform, who were visiting Feed Design Lab in Wanssum at January 15, 2020.

Year-round stable algae cultivation in NWE is possible. Well possible!

At Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)  algae are allowed to grow with their naturally occurring ecological companions – other algae, bacteria, protozoa and more, since the large scale facilities work under relatively open conditions for cost- and workload efficiency without sterilization or antibiotics.
All those species have different preferences for growth and productivity – some like it colder, some warmer, with more or less light, or with one or another specific partner organism.
Since not only one algae species dwell in the unsterile environment, each change of conditions favours a different composition of the culture as a whole. In the first year of the IDEA project, FZJ evaluated what happens with such a culture – which species is dominant at what season, can we expect productivity, and how to improve it?

After it became clear in the first year that the mixed culture is very stable and reliable, we wanted to see how productive it can get. So far, it had never ‘crashed’, but also was far behind the benchmarks for productive algae growth. The way to go was to increase feed, and most importantly, also increase the harvesting frequency – keeping the culture in an always growing state. This lead to much higher yields, and also favoured one main species under given seasonal conditions – always the one that grew up fastest. But the other species were never lost, they just were underrepresented and would wait their turn for the next change of conditions. This biological-buffer-effect made our algae biomass a reliable seasonal product – with relatively high (>95% and more) contribution of one species, but depending on the season, each time a different species – while never changing the basic culture. This culture is now already more than 3 years old.

First results

Our main results during the IDEA growth periods are so far:
  • Algae grow in winter, and economically worthwhile biomass production is also possible in colder months for higher value products
  • In colder season indoor cultures were more productive than outdoor cultures (abiotic buffer), in the warmer season it is the other way round. The limiting factor in this kind of culture is temperature rather than light
  • Mixed cultures are much more resilient to abiotic and biotic stress thanpure cultures – biological buffer is a very important feature in the heterogeneous conditions in NWE
  • Our mixed culture consists mostly of Chlorella, Scenedesmus, Synechocystis, and Chlamydomonales like Chloromonas. The analysis of the accompanying bacterial fauna is ongoing.

Next steps

Ongoing further research includes the harvest, storage and transport properties and possible usages of the biomass, including identification of useful secondary metabolites as possible added value – assessed for economic use together with our consortia partners. Given a well-planned synergetic network, algae use in NWE with its versatility is definitely part of future bioeconomic solutions.

Upcoming events

  • 23th - 24th of June 2020: Next general consortium meeting
  • September 2020: Online ENG IDEA event with webinars - more details available soon on our website
  • September 2020: Online FR IDEA event with webinars - more details available soon on our website
  • Autumn 2020: Online inspiration tool- more details available soon on our website
  • Spring 2021: Final IDEA event

Any questions?