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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.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - 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: 2016-05-01 to 2017-01-31

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 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.

Traditional project management activities included overall management, communication with EC and knowledge management for the whole period. The whole innovative pilot line for microalgae production was fully operative by September 2016.

Pilot production, performance verification and market replication of algae-based products have also been performed during the second project period of activities. The pilot line was tested in October 2016 and its technological performance verified in real operative conditions. The most promising algae strains were selected for production, while a limited, pilot production of food supplements and nutraceutical products took place. Animal feed and quality fertilizers will enter in a production stage only later on, due to their lower commercial value and nutraceutical content. As for bio-fuel, current market prices are suggesting to postpone its production.

Commercialisation and marketing activities were performed in RP2 as scheduled. As further detailed, activities included the setup of a commercialisation strategy and trade agreements with third parties, the effective introduction of the first products into the market, the signature of commercial contracts and the involvement of stakeholders.

Communication activities included the upgrade of the project website which will soon act also as an e-commerce platform for marketing and commercialisation purposes. Other activities included a project presentation at EABA (European Algae Biomass Association) in Madrid, Spain and another one at Aquafarm in Pordenone, Italy. A scientific article appeared on Elsevier's Algal Reasearch. The Eco-Logic Green Farm pilot plant is mentioned as a remarkable example in this field.

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. The company took also part in the SME Instrument Open Day organised by EASME in Brussels on 29-30 September 2015.
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.

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).
Project website screenshot
Algae-based food supplelements
Greenhouse and owner
Building the greenhouses
Project leaflets at EXPO Milan 2015
Building works at the pilot plant
Networking at EXPO Milan 2015
Men at work in greenhouses
Flyer page 2
Flyer page 1
Greenhouses overview
The pilot plant
Completed greenhouses
Photobioreactors in production