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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECO-LOGIC GREEN FARM (Design of an agricultural greenhouse for intensive growing of microalgae in fresh / sea water with a syngas production plant and organic farming of chickens and pigs outdoors.)
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ECO-LOGIC GREEN FARM Report Summary

Project ID: 683515

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECO-LOGIC GREEN FARM (Design of an agricultural greenhouse for intensive growing of microalgae in fresh / sea water with a syngas production plant and organic farming of chickens and pigs outdoors.)

Reporting period: 2015-08-01 to 2016-04-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

According to a series of recent and classic international studies and reports, world population growth - along with the effects of climate change - will end in a reduction of food, energy and pharmaceutical resources, while increasing air, water and ground pollution at the same time. Higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, along with a deterioration in food quality production might have dramatic consequences not only on the EU population, economy and way of life, but also on the rest of the world.

One of the possible solutions to lighten the burden of such challenging and possibly long-lasting problems is an increase in the cultivation and production of microalgae to be used for food, energy and pharmaceutical purposes.

The business opportunity consists in the construction of an innovative production plant integrating highly performing algae cultivation in high-tech photobioreactors (PCBs) able to capture and reuse huge amounts of CO2 with a syngas CHP using self-produced wood chips as a source of carbon, required for the photosynthetic process of microalgae, while its heat will be used for the thermal control of algal cultures and for heating/cooling of the company premises. In short, the proposed innovative business project is a zero-emission, environmental-friendly, highly productive farm supplying the EU and world markets with all-in-one food, energy and pharmaceutical products.

The project aims at the construction of a pilot plant for the cultivation and production of microalgae to be used for food, energy and pharmaceutical purposes. The extraction process of the cultivated algal biomass produces a very high quality dry substance, which can be used for the following purposes: production of quality fertilizers; enrichment of livestock feed; organic matrix for anaerobic digestion plants; palletizable biomass for combustion; food supplements for pharmaceutical use.

The main kind of activity which will be carried out in the proposed project regards innovative agriculture, notably cultivation of microalgae in water, inside transparent plastic fiber structures arranged in strings, positioned in traditional glass-steel/plastic greenhouses. The algae growth in the PBRs takes place by photosynthesis and then through sequestration of CO2 injected into the PBRs by means of cylinders.

The high level of technologies used is guaranteed by the direct involvement in the project of the most relevant stakeholders at international level, including the two Italian excellence centres in the biotech sector applied to algae production.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The structure of the work plan starts with the management, includes one work package (WP) devoted to a pilot line for microalgae production, including PBRs for research on algae and continues with a WP dealing with pilot production, performance verification and market replication. Dissemination, exploitation and marketing, as well as communication are covered by two other WPs.

Apart from traditional project management activities - which included overall management, communication with EC and knowledge management and were performed during the first nine months of the project – one big challenge has been represented by a delay in the release of a landscape permit to be issued by the relevant regional environmental and cultural heritage authority, which resulted to be compulsory in order to start building the pilot line. Once the problem solved, the works for the preparation of the building site, the construction of the greenhouse hosting the photobioreactors and the technological infrastructures started and are currently undergoing at a fast pace. The whole innovative pilot line for microalgae production – including a biomass co-generator, the experimental PBRs and an ancillary research lab - is likely to be fully operative by the end of June 2016.

Although a slight delay in building operation due to a longer than expected bureaucratic procedure, the greenhouse will cover 1970 m2 instead of the planned 1200 m2 in order to optimise PBRs production and distribution. The pilot plant is likely to become the largest demonstrator of its kind in Europe. Moreover, due to technical reasons, two CHP will be installed instead of one, although the total power generated will be the same. The ancillary meeting / research lab will be included within the greenhouse.

Production, commercialisation and marketing activities will be performed during the second project period of activities.

Communication activities included the realisation of the first version of the project website www.ecogreenfarm.it which will be further upgraded in order to act also as an e-commerce / m-commerce platform for marketing and commercialisation purposes – amongst others. Moreover, the company took part in International Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy fully devoted to the innovative agro-food sector, as well as in EABA meeting in Lisbon, Portugal to spread information regarding the project and exploit networking opportunities for the near commercial future. Some articles and press releases appeared on local and national newspapers and social media. A project leaflet written both in English and Italian was produced.

The company took also part in the SME Instrument Open Day organised by EASME in Brussels on 29-30 September 2015. Last but not least, the project owner has been invited as testimonial in a conference dedicated to the SME Instrument, organised by EEN Friend Europe – Venice, the Chamber of Commerce of Padua, Italy and other stakeholder on 21 April 2016, reaching an audience of more than 170 SMEs and other interested parties. Such activities will continue and strengthen during the second period as well.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The novelty of the project regards the realisation of a key-in-hand one-stop-farm integrating several innovative technologies ranging from the cultivation and production of microalgae to be used for food, energy and pharmaceutical purposes to syngas production from wood chips and district heating/cooling of premises. Moreover, the proposed approach to innovative algae cultivation and processing is the first application which explicitly address both the production and research markets at once.

Key reasons explaining the project novelty are: reduced need of land for high productions; can be used in low-quality agricultural land; no emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants throughout the whole process; no need to discharge aggressive waters; significant amount of carbon dioxide captured and stored; pure product, devoid of any environmental contamination and featuring a Ω3 content significantly higher than the one extracted from fish oil which – on the opposite - shows traces of heavy metals due to marine pollution.

Market application deriving from algae include: biomass for combustion and organic matrix for anaerobic digestion plants; food supplements for human/animal use; pharmaceutical/cosmetics products; fertilizers; complete pilot line for cultivation. Other applications include licensing of concept, technology and brand and experimental photobioreactors for bio-lighting algae research. It is a growing market with a world potential estimated at +30% each year and a global size of 150M€ in 2016.

Potential customers include: food supplement producers and retailers; livestock and poultry producers; pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry; agricultural product retailers and farmers; bio-fuel refineries; agricultural and processing companies interested in market replication or in becoming licensees; research institutions; general public, families and young people.

One of the project goals is to help the European industry to find more sustainable alternatives to the production of bio-fuels derived from food commodities by 2020. The cultivation of algae for food and / or bio-fuel contributes substantially to the achievement of the Europe 2020 objectives as it can capture and store huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

Moreover, according to IPCC reports and other international scientific studies, world population growth and climate change are likely to imply, on one hand, a reduction of food, energy and pharmaceutical resources and, on the other hand, an increase in air, water and ground pollution. A possible solutions to address such huge world and EU-wide challenges is an increase in the cultivation and production of microalgae to be used for food, energy and pharmaceutical purposes. An important, although indirect, legislative endorsement to what just written comes from the fact that both microalgae Nannochloropsis and Tetraselmis are waiting to be authorized by the European Commission as novel foods for human consumption under the Novel Food Regulation (Reg. 258/97).

The development and implementation of the project will be carried out also by female engineers, technicians, marketing and sales managers.

Related information

Record Number: 190180 / Last updated on: 2016-11-09
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