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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - algaPLUS (Upscale and optimisation of an olive wastewater treatment photobioreactor (PBR) coupled to algae biomass valorisation as biofertilizer and treated water reuse)

algaPLUS Report Summary

Project ID: 672596

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - algaPLUS (Upscale and optimisation of an olive wastewater treatment photobioreactor (PBR) coupled to algae biomass valorisation as biofertilizer and treated water reuse)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2015-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

An average olive oil mill generates 3000 m3 of olive washing waste water (OWW) per year. OWW is among the most recalcitrant and polluting industrial wastewaters, mainly due to its high polyphenol concentrations, and cannot therefore be discharged or reused without adequate treatment. OWW is currently managed by the widely extended evaporation ponds, generating uncountable water and soil pollution impacts due to overflow and landfill disposal of sediments, or by conventional water treatment technologies with high energetic consumption and generating by-products (e.g., sludge) with very limited valorization options.
For the last 7 years, BIOT has developed the eco-innovation AlgaPLUS, an olive wastewater treatment reducing Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) by 95% and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) by 85%, thanks to an algal photobioreactor (PBR) coupled to algae biomass valorization as biofertilizer and treated water reuse. The biological actors of AlgaPLUS are up to 13 microalgae and bacteria native from the olive waste water, specialized in degrading pollutants in OWW (nitrates, phosphates, polyphenols) for their metabolism using sunlight. The outcomes of this process are clean water reusable for activities in the mill (washing, machine cleaning, irrigation) or farms nearby (irrigation for ornamentals and food crops) and microalgal-bacterial biomass valorized as biofertilizer combining into a single product the benefits of organic slow release algal fertilizers (macro and micronutrients and phytohormones) and bacterial biofertilizers (Plant Growth Promoters).
The target market for AlgaPLUS is the olive oil production industry in Europe and Mediterranean, with the main end users being cooperative or industrial olive mills especially within the organic olive oil segment. There are 15,000 mills in Europe and Mediterranean countries, with over 95% of the EU production occurring in Spain, Italy and Greece. AlgaPLUS biofertilizer will first target olive tree farmers (2.5 million in EU) spreading afterwards to other Mediterranean crops like greenhouse horticulture, vines, citrus and tropical fruits. In the near future, a fully developed AlgaPLUS technology will be easily transferable toward most agri-food industries generating polyphenol-polluted waste water such as wineries, table olives and cheese production, whereas biomass applications may be extended to aquaculture, human/animal nutrition and cosmetics due to high-value compounds from microalgae.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the last 5 months, the technical and commercial staff of Biot has worked hard to determine the best roadmap for the future exploitation of AlgaPLUS. We have first confirmed the technical feasibility of AlgaPLUS innovation, driven by an efficient biomass generation (0.4 g/L/day) during water treatment resulting in a microalgal-bacterial biomass suitable to provide plant growth promoting properties (tested in model crops) and additionally with high content of proteins (48% of total dry biomass) and lipids (22-38%) opening promising avenues for further applications (human and animal nutrition, cosmetics). Within this technical feasibility we have also checked the compliance of AlgaPLUS treated water with European and national legislation on waste water discharges (e.g., EU Directive 91/271/ECC) and water reuse (e.g., Spanish RD1620/2007 and RD140/2003) providing recommendations to meet all emission limit values in a cost-effective manner. Additionally, we have estimated the reduction of water/soil pollution and carbon footprint to be experienced by end users of AlgaPLUS compared to current evaporation ponds and conventional water treatment technologies.
Beyond technical aspects, this feasibility study has allowed defining the best commercialization and marketing strategy for a successful uptake of AlgaPLUS by target markets, identifying the current end-users and key stakeholders (technical and commercial partners within water treatment and fertilizers markets and water authorities) in target EU and Mediterranean countries. And last but not least, we have defined the economic feasibility of AlgaPLUS project under different biomass valorization scenarios, estimating a payback period of three years post-commercialization (by 2020) for the investments foreseen for phase 2 project (2016-2017).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

During the feasibility study we have concluded to continue with AlgaPLUS project as it has proven a competitive and unique solution for the effective treatment of olive washing waste water coupled to biomass valorization. After studying the economic viability of AlgaPLUS, and considering the commercial strategy described in our business plan, the accumulated revenues for Biot have been estimated in over 11M€ by 2022 (considering a 25% profit margin), and the total turnover from the whole AlgaPLUS system is estimated at 43.1M€ (annual turnover would be 15.3M€ by 2022). Beyond the positive economic impacts for Biot, AlgaPLUS will ultimately contribute to ensure the environmental sustainability of a key industry (olive oil) by avoiding its water/soil pollution impacts (eutrophication and phytotoxicity), while promoting water reuse in up to 90% and reducing its carbon footprint by more than 30%.

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