Microalgae cultivation: market, production and research updates presented at the AlgaeFarm Expo
Image credit: AlgaeFarm
For the first time, the Italian market data for the country and some European and global estimates will be illustrated as part of the AquaFarm and NovelFarm digital preview.
The Italian market demand for dried microalgae reaches the amount of more or less 200 tons per year, for a range of uses such as food and nutraceuticals, to cosmetics and pharmacopoeia to fish feed. Only less than 13 percent of demand can now be satisfied by domestic production, three quarters of which are concentrated on spirulina and in the hands of about ten companies.
Some companies that produce components, such as photobioreactors, or turnkey cultivation plants, are also included in the Italian value chain. This is some of the data provided exclusively by Alberto Bertucco, president of AISAM, the Italian Association for the Study and Applications of Microalgae, and Liliana Rodolfi, professor at the University of Florence, during the presentation of the new AlgaeFarm project, as part of the Digital Preview of AquaFarm and NovelFarm at Pordenone Fiere.
The Italian market requires high quality, but domestic suppliers face competition from more structured European companies (from France and Spain notably) with comparable offers, but above all from the Far East, "certified organic" but with prices that are a fraction of those charged for European organic spirulina.
On worldwide and European levels, the market is more developed even though it started, as far as the industrial research is concerned, in the 1980's at the same time as the Italian one, which did not really take off until the last decade.
Estimates on world production are quite variable, from a minimum of 25,000 tons / year to a maximum of 130,000, divided between about twenty genera on microalgae, each with several species. 50 to 90 percent of the quantities, depending on estimates, are concentrated on two genera, spirulina and chlorella.
The global value well exceeds one billion dollars and is characterised by a very high price per kg which makes it value-relevant, although in quantity it is not comparable to the contiguous sector of macroalgae which produces 4.6 million tons every year. It should be noted, however, that it is estimated that the potential demand in some sectors, such as the production of fish feed, is very high, one million tons only for the one mentioned.
When comparing the European market to the world one, the continent remains marginal on the production front. The total, according to EABA (European Algal Biomass Association) reaches 500 tons, with just under half of those concentrated on spirulina and chlorella. Prices vary a lot, like quality, even within the same genus. In total, the market value is around 500 million euros, with an average year-on-year growth of 10 percent. The prospects are brighter if one considers the end uses of biomass.
Excluding proteins, extracted from spirulina and chlorella, other obtainable substances have very high market prices, ranging from 200-600 dollars per kg for fatty acids up to 45,000 dollars per kg for fucoxanthin, a powerful anti-inflammatory, today extracted at lower purity levels from some brown multicellular algae.
Research, both basic and industrial, today focuses on improving the productivity of cultivated microalgae, in particular through the greater efficiency of the photosynthesis process, on which the physiology of most genera used on an industrial scale is based. The attention is especially focused on light sources that emit the frequencies best used by different genera. A second research field aims to optimise the productivity of microalgae throughout the entire volume of water in which the crops are contained, avoiding concentrations that may create shadowy areas where the organisms growth stops.
The topics presented and others will be included in the AlgaeFarm agenda scheduled for June 9-10, an initiative illustrated by Lucia Prosdocimo, Project manager of the event.
For more information about the AlgaeFarm Expo visit their website, HERE.