Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MULTI-STR3AM (A sustainable multi-strain, multi-method, multi-product microalgae biorefinery integrating industrial side streams to create high-value products for food, feed and fragrance)
Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-10-31
Microalgae have a vast biosynthetic potential and are a rich source of lipids, protein, and high-value compounds such as pigments.
Despite these advantages, they are underexploited as a crop.
This is due to barriers of scale, which means that microalgae products struggle to achieve the same economies as conventional products, such as palm oil or soybean.
MULTI-STR3AM addresses these challenges by scaling up and lowering costs, providing valuable products for large end-users in the food, feed, and fragrance sectors.
The project reduces costs, increases the scale, and boosts sustainability, through:
i) constant improvement of strains through non-GM methods, to increase their productivity and meet end-user needs;
ii) design and engineering improvements to cultivation and harvesting technologies to reduce CAPEX and OPEX of biomass production;
iii) exploitation of industrial and own side streams during cultivation in a circular economy design;
iv) synergistic integration of different technologies in a multi-strain, multi-method, multi-product biorefinery (‘MULTI-biorefinery’); and
v) valorization of every fraction of the microalgal biomass in a zero-waste approach.
MULTI-STR3AM will demonstrate 7 consumer products, 6 of which are new.
MULTI-STR3AM creates a roadmap for economically viable industrial-scale microalgae cultivation, towards a sustainable future for European bio-based industries.
The identification of relevant market data: global market of microalgae, market trends, growth rates and opportunities for microalgae derived products;
The demo scale microalgae biomass production and harvesting, integrating side streams as feedstock;
The design and installation of the multi-product biorefinery and the processing routes optimization at lab-scale;
The establishment of a baseline of knowledge on the EU Regulations and certification schemes for microalgae and microalgae products;
The establishment of a process system to be assessed in TEA and LCA.
i) Reduction of CAPEX and OPEX associated with microalgae cultivation and harvesting
- The use of microalgae and microalgae-based products in a wide range of market applications is still limited by high production costs, with cultivation and harvesting representing more than 50% of the total costs.
- MULTI-STR3AM will introduce new engineering and design solutions in cultivation systems to be used throughout the project.
- These improvements not only reduce costs associated with investment and operation but can also positively impact biomass productivity, leading to higher biomass and metabolite yields.
- Additionally, highly efficient, cost-effective harvesting technologies will be tested and selected for biomass collection and dewatering.
- These results are expected to reduce biomass production costs to a point where it becomes economically attractive for the majority of market applications.
ii) Valorisation of the complete biomass
- Currently, microalgae can be considered underexploited biomass – most commercial microalgae producers focus on a single product, or a limited range of products, meaning that a significant proportion of the biomass is discarded or not used optimally.
- While it is expected that MULTI-STR3AM will deliver significant cost savings through technical innovations, the most important strategy for realizing competitive pricing will be valorization of every fraction of microalgae biomass through a cascading approach.
- This eliminates waste and means that higher value fractions can subsidize bulk fractions.
iii) Valorisation of industrial side streams
MULTI-STR3AM will simultaneously lower costs and increase the sustainability and circularity of the business model by taking advantage of the availability of industrial side streams.