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PRODUCTION OF PHYCOCYANIN FROM THE SPIRULINA ARTHROSPIRA SP. REVISITING THE SOURCING, EXTRACTION AND CO-VALORIZATION OF THE WHOLE ALGAE IN THE FRAME OF AN INDUSTRIAL BIOREFINERY CONCEPT

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SpiralG (PRODUCTION OF PHYCOCYANIN FROM THE SPIRULINA ARTHROSPIRA SP. REVISITING THE SOURCING, EXTRACTION AND CO-VALORIZATION OF THE WHOLE ALGAE IN THE FRAME OF AN INDUSTRIAL BIOREFINERY CONCEPT)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

SPIRALG is the very first micro-algae biomass project at a “Demonstrator level” funded by the Bio-Based Industry Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) under the Horizon 2020 call. This very competitive Innovation Action call has been mainly funding new DEMO-plants able to transform and valorise large volumes of existing land-based biomasses from agro-farming and forestry. The success of SPIRALG proposal in 2018 now indicates that micro-algae are progressively shifting from R&D scale to demonstrator scale able to prove economical viability. Indeed, SPIRALG is an opportunity to boost EU micro-algae production and to provide a variety of new valuable marketable bio-products in sufficient exploitable amounts in order to ensure an economically viable value chain.
SPIRALG project is funded 5 million euros over a period of 4 years. The project is led by Jean Paul Cadoret, Managing Director of Greensea a French company specialised in Marine Biotechnologies. In addition to GreenSea, the consortium is composed of a Spirulina producing company in Italy (Milis Energy), algae-based ingredient producers (Algaia in France and MIAL in Germany) and LCA experts in the field (University College Dublin, Ireland). SPIRALG was officially launched in May 2018 by Greensea who hosted the kick-off meeting in the coastal town of Mèze (France). All consortium members were present along with the EU Scientific Project Officer, Dr Thomas Vizikas.

The main goal of SPIRALG is to demonstrate that producing Spirulina biomass under sustainable and efficient conditions for phycocyanin extraction and potentially other valuable co-products, is economically viable. The main component of this value chain is the natural blue pigment phycocyanin which is expected to rapidly find markets in the food industry.




More info on www.spiralgaeproject.eu / www.bbi-europe.eu/projects
The most significant scientific and/or technological achievements are pinpointed below.
• At the production level, we now have the real figures concerning the SPIRULINA production plant and in particular the numbers around the automation of the procedure. An estimate production of 10tons/year is achieved. In the same line, we have now a figure of the phycocyanin extraction yields in our production conditions
• At the extraction level, an important effort has been dedicated to the identification of the needed equipment. Once identified, the purchasing was the task of the big part of this firs period. We are dealing with machines like, Mixing, high pressure homogeniser, filtration unit, microfiltration unit, ultrafiltration unit, Centrifuge.
• At the biochemical level, two partners start to have a precise idea of which co-product is in majority and how to extract valuable compounds and preserve them.

The major breakthrough is the project itself. Indeed, the project aims at identifying an equilibrium between the different components of the microalgae, in terms of volume dispatched for the different co-products but also the balance in prices. In that sense the project is running exactly as expected. For the society, we are dealing with the safe sourcing of the unique natural blue food dye, approved as such by the US FDA. With an increasing trend to replace synthetic dyes by natural based ingredients for human consumption, this will provide to food processors a healthier way to dye the food.

The societal impact of Spiralg is at first related to the fact that phycocyanin is a natural blue colorant which can contribute to healthier food products for the general consumer. Regarding the increasing demand for healthier products, the achievements within SpiralG will directly respond to these societal needs. Providing phycocyanin from sustainably produced spirulina biomass in the EU is an additional challenge which will hopefully be accepted by the society as a quality label, able to gain value on the market. Moreover, the development of this sector involves the creation of spirulina farms in Europe and could lead to new jobs, whether directly and indirectly. In an environmental perspective, the production of microalgae can be undertaken on non-agricultural land and moreover this type of culture can be quite economical in water consumption. Finally, the use of the whole microalgae in a concept of biorefinery, involving the valorisation of co-products, will promote exchanges between different sectors thereby creating new products for existing markets.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Extracting phycocyanin from algae biomass has multiple environmental benefits. Primarily, algae capture atmospheric carbon to metabolise organic compounds which will be extracted and then consumed, thereby recirculating carbon fluxes and reducing the impact on climate change. SPIRALG has selected appropriate regions for producing the algae (Sardinia, Italy) in order to reduce the use of artificial conditions (no artificial light and reduced warming) which are significant energy costs in the production process. Moreover, algae production plants do not need arable land and hence do not compete with conventional agriculture areas dedicated for food. In terms of process, phycocyanin is soluble in water-based eco-friendly solvents. Additionally, the biorefinery approach of SPIRALG has the aim of valorising the whole biomass and hence reducing waste. A Life Cycle Assessment will be undertaken over the whole process composing the value chain, from biomass to end products, in order to measure environmental and societal impacts and to orientate industrial choices towards a more green and sustainable economy.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
One of the main challenges of producing Spirulina biomass and extracting phycocyanin in the EU is to make the entire value chain economically viable and, in other terms, ensure that all end products are sufficiently competitive on the international market. The shift of conventional industrial practices towards greener economical choices will, most probably be in the future, a valuable criterion on the international scene. Therefore, in order to meet these economic and environmental challenges, SPIRALG will focus on increasing production efficiency, valorising the whole biomass (zero residues) and optimising processes with minimum inputs (eco-friendly technologies).
Also, it has been recognised that manufacturing is globally decreasing in the EU and patents are increasingly being exploited outside the EU. It is therefore a major societal challenge to modernize and develop new competitive and sustainable industrial concepts able to relocate production and transformation in the EU. Industrial biotechnology as described in this project SPIRALG is in line with the identified Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) supported by the EU and will hence contribute to the valorisation of knowledge towards marketable goods produced in the EU.
Consortium partners