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New market opportunities for the sustainable development of Chilean macroalgae.

CORFO and UCN seek to add value to Chilean macroalgae exports

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Friday, June 07, 2019, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

A new project will focus on the identification of new market opportunities for the sustainable development of Chilean macroalgae, and will allow to address the gaps that exist in the industry through work that involves the public, private and academic sectors.
Chile is currently the main producer of macroalgae in South America. This resource has a high worldwide demand for the quality of its phycocolloids (complex polysaccharide with the ability to form gels), but the limited knowledge of its properties leads to its being exported as a commodity, which limits its marketing prices.
To change this scenario, in dependencies of CORFO, La Serena, the first meeting of the Consultative Committee of the project "Value added to Chilean macroalgae exports: Characterization of phycocolloids, denomination of origin and commercial diversification" was held. The initiative seeks to disseminate the chemical and rheological characterization of the phycocolloids present in commercial Chilean algae, as a tool of added value and identification of new market opportunities for a sustainable development of this natural resource.
Workshop at the UCN-CORFO
The project is financed by CORFO, through the Innova Chile Contest called "Strategic Public Goods for Competitiveness", and is executed by the Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN). In addition, it considers companies of the sector and associations of algueros
Being a multidisciplinary team, covering the public and private sector and the academy, the gaps that exist in the Chilean macroalgae industry will be addressed, such as scattered information on landings by algae species and locality; insufficient knowledge about quality and yield of the phycocolloids produced by the algae along the coast of Chile, as well as the presence of contaminants (heavy metals); and the scarce commercial diversification and the need to identify new national and international markets.

CORFO regional director, Gregorio Rodríguez ►
In this regard, CORFO regional director Gregorio Rodríguez stressed that the initiative "will allow to supply some symmetries of the market and also obtain relevant information that will allow the industries of the sector to make decisions regarding issues of production, commercialization and productive development".
For its part, Nancy Chandía, an academic from the Faculty of Marine Sciences and director of the project, said: "There is currently an overexploitation of algae, therefore, the idea with this proposal is to carry out a more detailed study of the properties of the phycocolloids present in the algae and, on the other part, to gather the information of other areas that is in a parceled manner. Fundamentally, there is a great ignorance of why algae are bought. It is evident that Chile sells a large volume of algae, we are talking of about 400,000 tons per year of natural grasslands that are sold dried and ground. Therefore, one of the objectives of this project is to generate an information base where scientific, commercial and social aspects of this valuable resource will be gathered, and thus give it added value in its different levels of the commercial chain."
Team participating in the project
With regard to the impact of the project on companies in this area, Manuel Cáceres, representative of the company ARCA SPA, highlighted the importance of this project for the pymes they represent, because it can help diversify the product by seeking greater added value.
Phycocolloids (complex polysaccharides with the ability to form gels) are very versatile because they are used in different industries, such as food, biotechnology, medicine, cosmetics. Due to its high international demand, Chile has established that the growth of this economic sector considers environmental sustainability, research and training in the area of ​​hydrobiological resources, as well as the conservation of the genetic heritage of native resources.
Once the project is finished, the information generated will be available to the community and may be used to promote other processes such as the geographical indication and denomination of origin of our native resources, as well as to identify populations that supply sustainable production initiatives such as cultivation and repopulation.

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