TNO and Ingrepro Renewables BV are analysing the extraction of food ingredients from algae. (Photo: Ingrepro Renewables BV/ FIS)
Project seeks to obtain food ingredients from algae
Friday, August 06, 2010, 23:10 (GMT + 9)
A joint research project to extract food ingredients from algae is being started by Dutch organization TNO and industrial algae producer Ingrepro Renewables BV. The extracted ingredients are healthy vegetable oils and mostly proteins and could be used as a sustainable substitute for meat.
If and how carbohydrates from algae can be used will also be analysed. Most algae-use initiatives now pertain to the oil’s potential to replace fossil fuels.
The two-year study aims to reveal how to extract the desired substances from the organisms on a large scale, prior to being processed into sustainable chemicals or fuel. The extraction process can breed an algae production method which is both profitable and environmentally responsible.
Ingrepro will take care of algae production and establishing the biorefinery process while TNO will create the technologies for extraction and refining the oil, proteins and carbohydrates and work on the ingredients’ possible applications.
Largely funded by the Biorefinery encouragement programme of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), the project will cost EUR 1.5 million.
Algae are believed to have much potential as a sustainable food ingredient and fine chemical source.
Algae use CO2, nitrate, phosphate and other substances under the influence of sunlight. If these are used well, algae production becomes both cheap and environmentally beneficial.
Large-scale algae production can thus constitute a sustainable meat substitute in response to the issue of meat production being globally under pressure due to its nefarious effects on climate change and excessive land use. Up to 60 per cent of algae is made up of protein, such that it could replace animal protein.
As well, up to 30 per cent of algae is made up of oil rich in healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be processed into a food ingredient for the health industry as a sustainable replacement for fish oil. Relatively little is known at this point about carbohydrates coming from algae.
The research project looks to give more data about the biorefinery of these ingredients.
Per available technology, the use of algae as food ingredients will offer higher potential profits than its use for biofuel, as the biofuel from algea industry is still in early stages. Numerous small scale tests have been done with cars, trucks and aeroplanes with the use of algae oil as fuel.
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By Natalia Real