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Olive oil wastewater Reuse for the production and commercialisation of Spirulina Alga

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ReSpirA (Olive oil wastewater Reuse for the production and commercialisation of Spirulina Alga)

Reporting period: 2015-12-01 to 2016-05-31

Wastewater by olive oil mills and dairy production is offering GreenTech several opportunities to boost its competitiveness and growth across the Mediterranean regions, thanks to the scale up and further commercialisation of a new eco-innovative process and its green products, namely ReSpirA.
Currently the olive oil industry is one of the most relevant agro-food branches in Italy and in other countries of the Southern Europe such as Spain, which is right before Italy in the list of the main world producers of olive oil.
Even if representing an important sector of European economy (in 2007 there were 1.9 million farms with olive groves in the EU ), the olive oil production implies significant environmental drawbacks: in fact the overall production process generates a huge amount of wastewater, with a high polluting and phytotoxic content (i.e. antibacterial phenolic substances that resist to biological degradation).
With the ReSpirA project, GreenTech is willing to enter the European market with an innovative solution for the treatment of the wastewater derived from the olive oil and dairy production, which, conjugating different filtration techniques, allows at obtaining green marketable products:
1) organic fertilizer and clean water to be reused for agricultural purposes,
2) inorganic nutrients, to be further exploited for the cultivation, production and commercialisation of the Spirulina microalga, widely used in the food industry thanks to its particular nutritional characteristics.
With its environmental benefits, ReSpirA is supporting also the well-known European environmental challenges, promoted by the EU Sustainable Development Strategy through the “Water Framework Directive” (with particular reference to water scarcity and drought) and the “Nitrates Directive” (1991), which aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices.
In addition, the European Union has adopted recently an ambitious strategy for developing the Bioeconomy in Europe, based on the innovative use of sustainable biological resources to cover the growing demand of the food, energy and industrial sectors. In this context the algae, as the Spirulina, represent emerging biological resources of great importance for their potential applications in different fields, including food and feed. The waters of the world host a large variety of organisms which are able to use light as source of energy to fuel their metabolism. Within these organisms, algae are a group of relatively simple, plant-like organisms, most of which capable of performing photosynthesis. Moreover algae contain several high-value molecules, such as lipids (oil), proteins and carbohydrates (sugars), and for this reason there is a growing interest in algae as production organisms. Algae, especially marine algae, have been already used as food, feed and fertilizers for centuries, and nowadays approximately 200 species are used worldwide in different sectors .
In ReSpirA, the microalga Spirulina will be cultivated, produced and commercialised: it is a human and animal food or nutritional supplement, which has been used as food for centuries by different populations and only rediscovered in recent years. It grows naturally in the alkaline waters of lakes in warm regions. It exists in the form of tiny green filaments coiled in spirals of varying tightness and number. It has a balanced protein composition, and the presence of rare essential lipids, numerous minerals and even vitamin B12 . Spirulina, thanks to the photosynthesis, absorbs CO2 from the air contributing, especially when intensively cultivated, to the reduction of carbon levels in the atmosphere. Moreover, the preservation of water will contribute to the maintenance of the correct water cycle, and the natural production of microalgae will avoid the use of chemicals fertilizer produced using carbon energy.
The utilization of wastewater to cultivate Spirulina will i) reduce the use of fresh water, ii) decrease the cost of nutrients for biomass cultivation and iii) contribute to the remediation of waste.
During the project a feasibility report, including a business plan was conducted, providing a set of analyses and strategies for the successful commercialisation of the innovative ReSpirA solution.
The study covered the key topics to ensure smooth path to market. In particular the strategy for SME-Instrument Phase 2 project was also defined.
A technical assessment provided a commercial development plan for ReSpirA identifying technical constraints, risks and contingency.
The objective of Phase 1 has been the evaluation of the scalability of the solution, with particular reference to the definition of the best medium composition for Spirulina growth and the best chemical constituents of the desired organic fertilizers. The composition of the organic and inorganic streams needs to be tested as it can sensibly change using membrane with different characteristics: their physical and working condition will be taken into account to evaluate scale-up opportunities.
A business plan has been developed, providing a clear mission and vision, with achievable and realistic objectives for the ReSpirA product. It includes a market and competition analysis, showing that ReSpirA responds to market needs and has a competitive advantage in terms of composition and price.
The business model and two business cases are also presented.
An operational capacity study has been performed to assess operational requirements to implement ReSpirA project.
Finally a detailed planning and strategy for the SME Instrument Phase 2 project is provided and presents funding, preliminary work-plan and tasks.
This document reports the main results of the Feasibility study and the conclusions for the project actions.
The ReSpirA project will have important impacts, both from the environmental and economic point of view.
Environmental benefits are:
1) Treatment and reuse of the oil and dairy production wastewater: the challenge for water protection is a priority in the EU. Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000, affirms that “water supports life”: it is a crucial resource for humanity, generating and sustaining economic and social prosperity. The integration of different approaches to preserve water is necessary. Therefore, while the WFD takes account of all aspects of water use and consumption, a good water management has to be integrated into all areas of water utilization (agriculture, industry, services, etc.). ReSpirA project faces a problem that is common in Italy, Europe and worldwide: the wastewater production and its reuse.
2) Reduction of CO2 emission: microalgae, thanks to the photosynthesis that is part of their growing process, absorb CO2 from the air contributing, especially when intensively cultivated, to the reduction of carbon levels in the atmosphere. Microalgae cultivation represents a promising, innovative, environmentally friendly and cost-effective mean of reducing CO2 emissions.
Economic benefits are:7
1) Treatment and reuse of the oil and dairy production wastewater: the innovative wastewater treatment will imply remarkable economic benefits for GreenTech, in terms of turnover, ROI and jobs growth (see section 2.1.3). Moreover, promoting its social and environmental engagement, GreenTech will be able to foster its competitiveness, promoting an environment respectful WW processing and answering the needs of a growing group of consumers looking for natural products.
2) Production of Spirulina: in line with the purpose of reusing and giving new added value to agricultural wastes, the inorganic stream produced by the treatment of wastewater will be transformed in a less expensive nutritive medium for microalgae growth. Spirulina production is concentrated in Asia and the USA although present in a small number of other countries with warm climates. The world's largest producers of Spirulina are: Cyanotech (USA); Earthrise (USA); Dainippon (Japan); EID Parry (India); Nutra (USA); Inner Mongolia Biomedical Eng. (Mongolia); Panmol (Australia), Spirulina Mexicana (Mexico); Siam Alga Co (Thailand); Nippon Spirulina (Japan). The ReSpirA Spirulina will differ from competitors’ products being characterised by an environmental friendly production process and better nutritional characteristics, related to the presence of antioxidants and polyphenols. Moreover, the made in Italy certification will ensure an advantage in the first market introduction in the national market, before to move to Spain and then to the other Mediterranean countries.