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VegaAlga Report Summary

Project ID: 673023

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VegaAlga (Sustainable agricultural eco-system: business and technological solution for eco-conscious vegetable cultivation using on-site produced algae fertilizer)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Both regulations and customer needs have driven growth in the market for green labelled food products cultivated in a sustainable way. Nevertheless, the availability of affordable technological tools for the production of green vegetables is limited. Furthermore vegetable suppliers neither have the essential technological knowledge nor the willingness to change their cultivation methods. Realising these trends, VTC, a regional market leader of vegetable production and trading, and Multisense, a technology intensive start-up aim at the establishment of a commercially and technologically sustainable agricultural eco-system. The technology for on-site production of microalgae and their usage as biofertilizer in vegetable cultivation has been piloted at VTC. In the proposed business model, this technology will be sold to framers helping them to make microalgae based fertilizer on their own land in a cost-effective eco-friendly way. The trader guarantees to buy the vegetables produced this eco-conscious way and bring them to supermarkets at a higher price for producers.
Giving a quick answer to the market trends in Europe such as expanding demand for „green” market both from customer and from supermarkets and changing regulations on fertiliser usage we decided to build up our own algae production facility. We established a 25 m3 pond algae production site, which was opened 30th October 2014. The system, at this current stage, can provide microalgae for our own purposes in a semi-automated way. We decided to make an automated system that can operate with minimal additional work. We aimed at increasing algae growth by a carbon dioxide supply from a dedicated composter. It will create a closed system. We have been working together with MS who is responsible for the measurement system for nutrient detection since, in algae production systems, the parameter setup and their maintenance is crucial for obtaining high production yields.
We commercialize a cost-effective technology for the production of microalgae and their use as biofertilizer in agriculture, in particular for vegetable growth, and to support it with a sustainable business model.

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

Technical achievements:
The ponds were completely renewed, and additional 5 ponds were built. The concept of the open ponds changed to walled superstructure. Reliability and stability tests and corrections were done to arrive to the final product.
- Automatic monitoring system was built, and the control algorithms were defined. A complete system was developed, built up and demonstrated in the test greenhouse. An online CRM and monitoring system developed, and reliability testing was done.
- Upscale the technology and connect with composter - completed
- Build 3 new pilot/demonstration plants – completed – 5 new were built and the old pond was renewed.
- We reached 2-3 g/l concentration due to optimization of the operation, high production yield and efficiency.
- We found algae species most suitable as possible effective bio fertilizers for vegetables.
- We created the knowledge base helping the end-user farmers to select the most suitable algae bio fertilizer for a given vegetable species, and further to suggest the optimal conditions for the growth of the selected algae species. The measurement data acquisition went well, and conclusions were formulated based on measurement data.
- We optimized algae based nutrients for onion, garlic, celery, parsley, wheat and sunflower.
- We improved the delivery system for irrigating algae based fertilizer and studied the possible formulation methods for algae bio fertilizer that can be spread on lands using existing devices
- We successfully carried out field tests with the produced algae on vegetable lands and demonstrated the productivity and pricing advantages compared to traditional fertilizers and commercial bio fertilizers on the market. We get outstanding results with reduced fertilizer test that cost 30% less compared to conventional fertilizers and also increased the productivity by 10-15% (depending on the vegetable type)
Commercial achievements
- The general design of the algae production system that can be easily installed at any farm, with corresponding use cases as examples. We made a 25 m3 pond system for 12.000 € selling price (including essential sensor system for 2.000 € + hardware and built up for 6.000 €), and made a fully automated with “all parameter detection” sensor equipped system for 21.000 € (including a 8.000 € sensor system + hardware and built up for 6.000 €) with 33% target profit margin in both cases. To keep the seasonal operation costs of the 25 m3 production pond under 350 € is verified.
-A Business Plan incorporating a detailed commercialization strategy and a financing plan in view of market launch was prepared.
- Marketing and dissemination actions were done including an extensive Dissemination and Communication Plan promoting the project and its findings during the period of the grant. We included establishment of a commercial web page and described how to facilitate the knowledge/technology transfer to farmers all over Europe. The dissemination strategy includes workshops, conference presentations, specialized magazines/journal publications, and personal meetings with farmers and cooperatives.

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)

This Customer Development Plan has been developed to achieve the final objective: to commercialize a cost effective technology for the production of microalgae and their use as sustainable “green” fertilizer in agriculture especially in vegetable and grain growth and to support it with a profitable business model.
This business plan has been developed to present Zöldségcentrum Kft. in English so called Vegetable Trading Centre Ltd. (referred to as VTC) to assist in raising the equity capital needed to begin the sale of its initial products and finish development of its complete product line meanwhile raising their profit.
The newest, ongoing development of VTC is VegaAlga microalgae-fertilizer system.
This is an innovative technology for on-site production of microalgae and their usage as fertilizer in vegetable and grain cultivations. The technology serves farmers helping them to produce their own microalgae based fertilizer on their own land at cost-effective eco-friendly way and in parallel switch the health- (and price-) level of their products to a higher level as becoming a green labeled product supplier.
Vegetable suppliers (in Europe typically farmers with small sized land) neither have the essential technological knowledge nor the most modern possibilities to change the cultivation methods.
Realizing these trends, Vegetable Trading Centre (VTC) - a regional market leader of vegetable production and trading - and Multisense - a technology intensive start-up company – are working on to develop the establishment of a sustainable agricultural eco-system.
Agricultural and healthcare regulations are also supported the trend of raising demand of green labeled products. To ensure the highest interest and the lowest hesitation of the farmers in the new system, VegaAlga guarantees to buy the vegetables produced by this eco-conscious way in the initial periods and resell them in selected main retail markets (hypermarket, supermarket and discounters) where it has its partnership already. There is a high demand by the consumers and retail partners for purchasing green labeled food cultivated at sustainable way.

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