Seaweed production. (Photo: ACIISI)
Canary Islands advances the use of microalgae for food and biodiesel
Monday, March 28, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers from the Technological Institute of Canarias (ITC) have been able to produce new foods and enrich others, generate biodiesel and treat waste water with some microalgae and its derivatives.
According to the director of the R+D Division at the ITC, Gonzalo Piernavieja, the Canary Islands is a world leader "in the matter, as for the last 20 years, several research groups working on seaweed at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the National Bank of Algae, as well as the institution he represents.
Biotech experts from the ITC proposed to promote research, development and innovation of the microalgae present in the Canaries, and become a commercial and industrial property "in the short to medium term."
Scientists emphasize that the climate of the islands is optimal for the development of microalgae, as their staple is the sun and carbon dioxide.
Piernavieja said that they are cultivating microalgae on a small scale in a greenhouse of 1,200 square meters in the facilities that the ITC has in Pozo Izquierdo, southeast of Gran Canaria.
Participating in the study on cultivation of microalgae were the large energy companies Repsol, Endesa, Acciona and Iberdrola.
The ITC specialist explained that seaweed produces between 10 and 20 times more oil per surface area than conventional energy crops of any oil plant, and do not compete with fertile soil because they are grown in tanks.
Currently, the Institute is helping to design the largest seaweed farming plant project in Europe, built in Jerez (Cádiz), which will be operational in two years, reports the EFE news agency.
Microalgae are a source of "good" fatty acids, especially omega 3 and 6 of carotenoids and some may also serve for the food industry, for example, the dairy sector.
Many species of microalgae are also high in protein, which make them useful in developing animal feed for aquaculture, among others, and can "make the leap from herbal products to the supermarket."
Piernavieja noted that there are approximately 50,000 species of seaweed and only 10 are sold commercially.
He also expressed the need for existing legislation to adapt to the advances in this field, since only four varieties of seaweed are allowed to be consumed.
By Analia Murias