Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header



Reporting period: 2021-04-01 to 2022-09-30

ProFuture addresses key challenges that limit sustainable and profitable cultivation and use of microalgae biomass as a source of protein for the food industry as well as for livestock and fish farming. Microalgae are a very promising source of high-quality proteins since they contain all the essential amino acids, grow faster compared to terrestrial plants and can be cultivated on lands that are not suitable for conventional agricultural purposes.
The main purpose of ProFuture is to set the basis for market uptake of innovative, socially responsible, and sustainable food and feed products, reformulated with protein-rich ingredients from microalgal biomasses and to demonstrate their social and economic benefits by validating the technical and economic feasibility of innovative technological solutions, prepare market uptake, determine consumer acceptance, and disseminate project results to relevant stakeholders.
ProFuture will strengthen the competitiveness, growth, and interaction of the actors of the microalgae value-chain, including producers, processors, distributors and consumers, by demonstrating the potential of protein-rich microalgal biomass as a part of the new European bioeconomy. ProFuture will support the adoption of technological and organizational innovations for a sustainable and efficient production and processing as well as to comply with EU food standards.
In the context of the project, several foods and feeds will be reformulated with the incorporation of microalgae biomass ingredients, scaled up at industrial level and then tested with consumer to investigate the market opportunities. Reformulated feeds will be used for in vivo trials to evaluate the impact of the microalgae inclusion in the diet as well as on the quality of the meat and fish muscle. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Life Cycles Costs (LCC) studies will be also carried out to evaluate the sustainability of the processes, ingredients, and final products.
Several innovative strategies have been developed and implemented to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of the final microalgae products, by: i) selecting new Chlorella vulgaris strains with improved protein content and organoleptic characteristics (4 pale green, one yellow, one white and one super green), ii) improving the efficiency of two cultivation techniques (mixotrophic and heterotrophic growth) for two microalgae strains (Galdiera sulphuraria and Chlorella vulgaris), and iii) implementing strategies to reduce the cost and increase production efficiency, like the assembly of a CO2 absorption prototype (Direct Air Capture), the valorization of side streams such as insect frass and recycled water for microalgae cultivation, and the installation of an “off-the-grid” photo-bioreactor.

Several drying technologies for biomass drying and production of single cells ingredients were studied, and Solar Drying seemed the most promising one for its low cost and environmental impacts.

Different types of foods (vegan carrot soup, vegetable cream, lasagne pasta, vegan meat sausage analogue, breadsticks, sports bars and an instant shake meal replacement) were reformulated at lab and plot scale with the incorporation of microalgae ingredients. A batch of all these selected products will be soon produced at industrial scale and made available for consumers tests.

Iso-nutritional and iso-energetic feeds for poultry, piglet, fishes and shrimps were reformulated by replacing half of the protein content with Nannochloropsis oceanica single cell ingredient.

The social and environmental opportunities and constraints of the microalgae value chain were identified through different activities including: i) consumer studies to identify the associations of consumers with food containing algae proteins ii) quantitative online surveys to quantify consumer preferences and to identify consumer segments that are most likely to adopt microalgae-based products. Results showed that consumers are currently not very familiar with food products added with microalgae and the majority have not tried nor tasted them before.

A database was created to combine LCA information with economic data to identify the most convenient and sustainable strategies and technologies to be adopted along the value chain.

Targeted strategies to disseminate and communicate the objectives and outcomes of the project were developed through the project (e.g. a flyer translated to 5 languages, more than 160 communication/dissemination actions, one Open Access scientific publication, an animated video, 47 EIP abstracts already submitted, six scientific publication, webinars and a strong social media presence).

ProFuture’s strategic plan for market exploitation was implemented, and a preliminary regulatory assessment to identify the EU legal barriers in the microalgae market was set up to identify EU specific requirements for the authorization of novel foods and to support partners through the authorization process.

Interviews throughout 7 EU countries (France, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria) were conducted to identify the different actors and the logistical constraints of the microalgae value chain.
Market analyses were carried out to track the partner’s progress in technology development, prototyping and product development as well as to define the exploitation strategy plan and positioning of the innovative ProFuture’s products in preliminary markets (Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Estonia and Portugal).
Main expected results include:
-the increase of the efficiency and sustainability of microalgal cultivation through the reduction of fresh water (-40 %) and energy (-50 %) consumption
-the development of protein-rich ingredients (single-cell & protein isolates) from 4 microalgae species by implementing mild, sustainable & affordable processing technologies at TRL6/7.
-the boost of the market uptake of nutritive and tasty food/feed products reformulated with single-cell proteins and protein isolates by developing 6 types of tasty food and 4 types of innovative feeds.
-supporting actions for the pre-market approval as novel foods of the innovative protein-rich ingredient (single-cell & protein isolates) from N. oceanica, Spirulina, T. chui and Lemon/lightly/C. vulgaris.
-supporting actions for the development of efficient, sustainable and competitive microalgae value chains.
-the development of an easy-to-use decisions support tool to evaluate the sustainability and environmental impact all through the microalgae food and feed value chains.

Main potential impacts are:
-Far-reaching progress in providing, processing and production of high-quality proteins for food and/or feed from terrestrial and/or aquatic origin, moving available solutions from TRL 5 to TRL 6 or higher
-New market opportunities for novel products, exclusively or partly derived from non-traditional proteins
-Future-proofed protein supply chains based on the principles of diversity, sustainability and resilience
-Increased trust and consumer acceptability for alternative protein sources and processes
-Sustainable food sector that significantly reduced its footprint in terms of land use, greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water, and other relevant indicators
Project Leaflet