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Sustainable Algae Biorefinery for Agriculture aNd Aquaculture

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SABANA (Sustainable Algae Biorefinery for Agriculture aNd Aquaculture)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-11-30

SABANA aims at developing a large-scale integrated microalgae-based biorefinery for the production of biostimulants, biopesticides and feed additives, in addition to biofertilizers and aquafeed, using only marine water and nutrients from wastewaters (sewage, centrate and pig manure). The objective is to achieve a zero waste process at a demonstration scales up to 5 ha sustainable both environmentally and economically. A Demonstration Centre of this biorefinery will be operated to demonstrate the technology, assess the operating characteristics of the system, evaluate environment impacts and collaborate with potential customers for use. The key advantages of SABANA project are: the sustainability of the process, using marine water and recovering nutrients from wastewaters while minimizing the energy consumption, and the socioeconomic benefits, due to the relevance of the target bioproducts for two major pillars in food production as agriculture and aquaculture. Bioproducts capable of increasing the yield of crops and fish production are highly demanded, whereas recovery of nutrients is a priority issue in the EU. Instead of considering wastewater as an inevitably useless and problematic residue of our society, SABANA acknowledges its potential as an opportunity for economically relevant sectors. SABANA project includes (i) the utilization of microalgae-bacteria consortia and in co-culture with other algae to control grazing species, (ii) the implementation of efficient thin-layer cascade and raceway, (iii) the scale-up of reactors to ensure stable operation, (iv) to use marine water to increase the sustainability of the process; (v) to recover nutrients from wastewaters, (vi) to develop harvesting processes taking into account the remaining water, (vii) to establish processes for mild/energy efficient extraction of bioproducts, (viii) to process residual biomass to produce biofertilizers and aquafeed in zero-waste schemes, (ix) using robust and sustainable technology.
During the last 18 months, the appearance of the covid-19 pandemic largely influenced the activities being developed into the project. The planned activities were seriously affected by restrictions in the movement of persons and working conditions, moreover, tasks related to construction activities being also strongly affected by a reduction on the operation capacity of companies providing equipment and services. In spite of this difficult scenario, the partners were able to maintain the work plan and to complete the pending activities. As summary, on this last period, the DEMO PRODUCTION facility was completed and operated under industrial conditions, thus providing realistic data for techno-economic and sustainability analysis. Moreover, the construction of the DEMO INDUSTRIAL facilities, up to two different, also start and they are close to being concluded to start in operation. Knowledge and technologies related to harvesting and processing of the biomass were completed, the industrial equipment being installed and operated. Moreover, new strategies to reduce the harvesting and processing cost, and to improve the efficiency of the entire process has been also proposed and studied, such as the utilization of non-pressure membranes. Improvement on PEF equipment was also developed to improve its reliability at large scale, although still it has not been evaluated due to restrictions for transport-related to the pandemic. Regarding biology, new efforts were devoted to characterize and design a model of microalgae/bacteria consortia. To note the completion of metagenomics studies about the composition of these consortia, and the evaluation of bioactivity of samples as a function of this composition. Large efforts have been also devoted to the development and evaluation in real field trials of final products, both for agriculture and aquaculture. Positive results already obtained confirm the reliability of proposed technologies on the SABANA project.
SABANA project is completing the work plan in spite of large difficulties related with covid-19 pandemic. To remark the completion of DEMO PRODUCTION and large progress in the construction of up to two DEMO INDUSTRIAL facilities, in addition to the maintenance of activities at R&D facility. Thus, at this moment the facilities related with SABANA project constitutes the larger and more relevant research platform of microalgae biotechnology in worldwide. A clear evidence of this fact is the large number of publications already released, the large variety of projects and companies interested to collaborate with us, and the relevant amount of researchers interested or already performing research stays at our facilities. Major achievements on this last period are related with: (1) the demonstration of technologies already developed at DEMO R&D facility at DEMO PRODUCTION and INDUSTRIAL facilities, (2) the update of techno-economic and sustainability of microalgae related facilities with data from real facilities, (3) the analysis of social acceptance analysis through different surveys and studies, (4) the analysis of microalgae-bacteria consortia, both at macro and micro scales, and how operation conditions influences this composition and the bioactivity of produced biomass, (5) the completion of real field trials both in agriculture and aquaculture, confirming the benefits of microalgae biomass for these applications, and (6) collaboration with other projects/entities/companies into the dissemination of activities related with SABANA project, both those related with agriculture and aquaculture applications, but also those related with wastewater treatment.
Equipment for harvesting at DEMO1 R&D scale
Dissemination at Bioeconomy Village
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DEMO1 R&D Facilitie completed
Downstream processing of the biomass
Trials of different harvesting methods
Improved large scale raceway reactor
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Students developing training activities