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A sustainable multi-strain, multi-method, multi-product microalgae biorefinery integrating industrial side streams to create high-value products for food, feed and fragrance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - 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: 2021-11-01 to 2023-04-30

MULTI-STR3AM is driven by a critical need to shift to a sustainable means of producing food, feed, and raw materials.

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.
In the first 18 months, the Multi-Stre3am project has successfully carried out the foreseen tasks with success, despite inevitable delays resulting from the worldwide pandemic and associated lockdowns and supply chain disruption. The main results so far are:
- The identification of relevant market data: global market of microalgae, market trends, growth rates, and opportunity for microalgae-derived 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.

During the last 18 months, the MULTI-STR3AM project has achieved several significant results:
- Integration of industrial side streams (effluent rich in nitrogen and industrial brine effluent) as feedstock for microalgae cultivation: Dunaliella salina and Nannochloropsis sp.;
- the biorefinery has produced 26 microalgal biomass samples for testing in food, feed, and fragrance applications;
- First trials by end-users have started to incorporate microalgal biomass in the applications;
- Data gathered from all technical activities for the development of life-cycle analysis and techno-economic analysis;
- 3 new scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals.
To meet the needs of end-users, MULTI-STR3AM will improve efficiency and lower costs of microalgae production through three main approaches:

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.
Microalgae for food, feed and fragrance