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An innovative high capacity Accordion bioreactor technology for high performance and low cost microalgae production

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Accordion Bioreactor (An innovative high capacity Accordion bioreactor technology for high performance and low cost microalgae production)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-04-30

Access to vital raw ingredients for food/feed production is an increasing challenge in several industries. Microalgae are sunlight-driven cell factories that are able to efficiently utilize carbon dioxide for the production of numerous products such as proteins, polysaccharides, oils, vitamins, carotenoids and other biologically active compounds, and are therefore used in a wide variety of technological applications for the development of feed and food products. Of the carotenoids, astaxanthin, a red ketocarotenoid, possesses a wide range of applications in feed, food, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical industries because of its strong pigmentation function, powerful antioxidative activity and broad beneficial effects on human health. ACCORDION is a proven and efficient platform for industrial scale production of high quality microalgae, at lower energy and decreased production cost, compared to other solutions. This technology aims to strengthen Europe’s position in the microalgae market, which is currently weak due to cheaper, low quality foreign competitors. Accordion bioreactor is made of a flexible plastic sheeting wrapped around steel bars, forming different chambers for holding fluid. The entire structure is aligned on a vertical axis and chambers are oriented at an adjustable angle depending on the bars’ distance. This peculiar configuration improves light incidence on the chambers, liquid mixing and bubble breakup. The bioreactor also includes tools for inserting fluid (a nutrient solution and/or a suspension of cells) and at least one delivery device for providing carbon dioxide, air and other needed gases to the culture. The system is essentially closed except for at least one opening (for example an opening at the bottom edge) that allows for the introduction of gases and/or nutrients. The gas and/or nutrients are introduced in such a way as to create a flow pattern driven by the rising bubbles, securing enough circulation without a pump. The Accordion bioreactor is applicable for photoautotrophic, mixotrophic and heterotrophic microalgae production. Accordion aims at producing naturally sourced astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis or C. zofingiensis, grown using the nutrients from fish sludge.
During the Phase 1 feasibility assessment, Biopharmia accomplished a full analysis of the technical and business potential of Accordion bioreactor. Throughout the duration of the project, Biopharmia expanded its knowledge of the aquafeed market, including regulations, standards, market size and competitors. During the Feasibility Study, the requirements to bring the current small-scale process to an industrially-relevant Minimum Viable Product were identified based on opinions of important partners, such as raw material (fish sludge) suppliers, biogas operators, aquafeed manufacturers and salmon farm producers; a clear go-to-market strategy in terms of identifiying the key target application (astaxanthin feed supplement), their market position as tech provider, customers (aquafeed producers) and business model/commercial partnership (production partnership model) was accomplished. Biopharmia established all technical activities and criteria for success that need to be implemented in order to achieve the target industrial production capacity and performances. The product development was decided accordingly, foreseeing the need to conduct a pilot the farm of an important salmon producer in Norway. In addition Biopharmia has decided to pursue a more impactful industrialisation strategy availing of larger biotech processing companies, with a stronger customer outreach at European and international level. Accordion technology, with its competitive advantages, puts Biopharmia in a strong position in the natural astaxanthin producers’ market, first of all for its novel concept of integrated circular production with an impressive impact on energy consumption.
Accordion wants to overcome the main issues associated with bioreactors for microalgae cultivation, such as the high cost of the required investment, energy input (up to €2.5M of CAPEX and 400 MWh/year on average for a 1ha plant) and the difficulty of scaling up these technologies bringing benefits to the entire aquaculture feed supply chain. Accordion technology will have a clear impact addressing issues related both to the environment and the society. In fact, due to its technical innovations it will strongly reduce the environmental impact of the microalgae cultivation systems. It represents an eco-innovative solution for the sustainable production and processing of marine and aquaculture-derived food products and nutrients. In addition, as a result of greater user acceptance, it will assure the creation of scalable markets and improve the competitiveness of the EU seafood sector increasing opportunities for growth, diversification and job creation for the sector in general and SMEs in particular. Natural astaxanthin produced with Accordion will benefit consumers by increasing the availability of healthier, safer and high quality seafood, which will improve consumers' diet and health.