Microalgae Production Development: Global Prospects and Profitable Technology Wastewater Purification by Using Microalgae

It is well known that the quality of our food has reduced. As a result, people's, animals', etc need for high quality food additives as a compensation of physiologically active components' (PAC) deficit, which they cannot get from ordinary food and feed, has increased...

By Dr. Armen Avagyan

Microalgae Industry Development
It is well known that the quality of our food has reduced. As a result, people's, animals', etc need for high quality food additives as a compensation of physiologically active components' (PAC) deficit, which they cannot get from ordinary food and feed, increased. Microalgae accumulate up to 50-70 % of protein (up to 50% in meat and up to 15-17 % in wheat), 30 % of lipids, over 40 % of glycerol, up to 8-10 % of carotene and significantly higher concentration of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, E, K, D, etc., compared with any other plant or animal origin. Therefore microalgae use in manufacturing of food additives, high-quality perfumery, and drugs brought about sharp increase in demand which rendered significant influence particularly on the related industry development.

About 61 % of Americans (spending $ 6 billion yearly), 43 % of Europeans and 3 % of Russians use food additives. So, currently over 75 % of pharmaceutical product development is generated by the food additives production comprising also microalgae. The dietary supplementation microalgae may benefit diseases such as gastrointestinal ulcers, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, can help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; a food that can alleviate pain from inflammation and deliver antioxidant activity to ward off life threatening diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease and stroke, protects the liver and kidneys and removes radiation from the body, improves the immune system, alleviates allergies and has been proven to fight many different viruses, helps also your eyes and brain, lose weight as well as increase friendly flora in the intestines and improve digestion, effectively removes slag's (heavy metals, radio nucleotides and leukocytes) from organism, reduces influence of irradiation, sugar and cholesterol in blood, cardiovascular diseases as well as is also useful for liver diseases, asthenia and insomnia, regulates normal pregnancy and lactation and prevents accumulation of excessive weight.

Moreover, microalgae are important raw materials for the production of amino acids, vitamins and other medicinal products. However, the most broadly used microalgaes are Chlorella and Spirulina - owing to their large high quantity of PACs and other advantages (other red and yellow algae use as producient sepatate compounds for medicine and vitamin industry). Sun Wellness Inc microalgae tablets price is $100 per kg (also produces Chlorella granules, wafers and honey). The Japanese Yaeyama Shokusan Co., Ltd (production area above 10 hectare) has Chlorela powder monthly production volume of 35 tons (price is $ 97.7 per kg), the Chlorella Center Chlorella powder sale prices are $31-40 per kg. The Israeli Institute of Applied Research produces Chlorella powder ($94-150 per kg), pills ($172-192 per kg), etc.

The Wudi IMVE Feed & Biotech Co is the biggest manufacturer in China, specialized in breeding processing and exporting Artemia cysts, Spirullina and Chlorella powders (Taiwan, Shandong) has good prime cost though at present he have small production volume (only 5 tons monthly). Cyanotech Corp., USA (production production area is ninety fully developed acres) arguably the world's foremost producer Spirulina (its enzymes, immunological serum etc). Other Spirulina main producers is Conversia Co, Sochi, Russia. Its pills sale price are $ 100-150 per kg. Some microalgae producers are in Vietnam, Thailand, Egipet, etc.

New Global Markets
From 1978 to 1996, the US Department of Energy's Office of Fuels Development funded a program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algae, know as the Aquatic Species Program (or ASP). The main focus of the program was the production of biodiesel from high lipid-content algae grown. A major conclusion of cost analyses for large-scale microalgae production is that for microalgae production there is little prospect for any alternatives to the open pool designs, given the low cost requirements associated with fuel production.

The factors that most influence cost are biological, and not engineering-related. These analyses point to the need for highly productive organisms capable of near-theoretical levels of conversion of sunlight to biomass. Two hundred thousand hectares could produce one quad of fuel (less than 0.1% of climatically suitable land areas in the USA). The DOE-ASP program conclusion is that the only plausible near- to mid-term application of microalgae biofuels production is integrated with wastewater treatment. In such cases the economic and resource constraints are relaxed, allowing for such processes to be considered with well below maximal productivities.

Recent record oil prices have caused oil dependent industries to review their energy policies with many looking to convert to less risky non-oil alternatives. The interest in the use of biomass as a fuel or energy source has been increasing as a result of climate change and energy efficiency policy and issues. Algae have emerged as one of the most promising sources especially for biodiesel production, because the yields of oil from algae are orders of magnitude higher than those for traditional oilseeds and algae can grow in places away from farmlands & forests, thus minimizing the damages caused to the eco- and food chain systems and harvested very quickly, meaning that the production process is sped up dramatically. Beside algae have the following properties that make commercial production attractive: microalgae grow much faster than the land-grown plants, have uniform cell structure with no bark, stems, branches or leaves, allowing easier extraction of products and higher utilization of microalgae cells and the cellular uniformity of microalgae makes it practical to manipulate and control growing conditions for the optimization of cell properties.

Crop failures and livestock deaths are causing higher economic losses and undermining food security with ever-greater frequency. At present biofuel production by use farm products leading to increase food and feed price. Therefore global problem is also set to be the quantity & quality of food and feed. Although there is probably more than one explanation, the trend may be largely through farmers choosing to generate a high crop yield.

In the last year the primary goal was to increase the feed assimilability, but it was achievable principally by using small concentrations of PACs and adding enzymes, raising only the cellulose hydrolyzing degree, assimilability and the commodity weight of production per feed unit. This one-sided approach has resulted in product quality impairment and a decrease in animal resistance to illnesses. As a result, the need of animals, poultries and fishes to use high quality feed additives to compensate for a lack of PACs, which they cannot get from ordinary feed, has increased.

Furthermore, an acute increase of frequency of mass epidemics among animals and poultries in various countries was observed (bird flu, etc). This has caused great economic damage to manufacturers and whole countries. The manufacture of vaccines against mass epidemics requires enormous charges and is not always effective. A notable example was a new strain of H5N1 bird flu virus, which, at the end of 2006, was detected in China and was resistant to previously-produced vaccines. At 2005 EU removed also the last antibiotic growth promoters from pig and poultry diets, and the subjects of finding alternatives to these additives continues to attract intense interest. As consensus begins to develop among the scientific community on this subject, a few approaches stand out in terms of efficacy, technological and economical feasibility, particularly in terms of organic acids and the use of essential or botanical oils.

The microalgae Chlorella addition in the daily allowance of animals, poultry and fish have resulted in increase of average daily weight gain, egg laying, milking, etc., and decrease of deceases and mortality. Hence, the microalgae use as feed additives may help reduce not only the general deficiency, but the poor quality and inferiority of the majority of feed additives as well, which may be one of the major causes of alarming frequency increament of mass epidemics and illness facing animals and poultry. By our calculation, only the poultry potential demand for microalgae powder (as feed additives) is $ 8.8 million in the Armenian domestic market, over $ 1.2 - 7.2 billion in USA, above $ 1.4 billion in China, and $ 600 millions in Iran, etc.

The use of Chlorella as a feed additive can become the best choice for the decision of problems concerning the antibiotics, organic acids, etc use in feed, since microalgae contain natural organic acids reducing colonization of pathogenes, and they are few billions years in nature. Therefore, thanks to this feature Chlorella is used also for feed conservation.

At the same time it is known, that industrial watering agricultural culture watering (wheat, rice etc.) by microalgae suspension induced raises their crop on 10-20 % due to percentage increase of nitrogen contents, organic compounds (humus content increases up to 47-60 %), macro- and microelements, useful soil microorganisms (at 2-3 times), macro- and microelements, oxygen, growth-stimulant compounds in ground with further microalgae reproducing in ground. It is a good way for development organic agriculture and decrease nitrogen fertilizers use.

Microalgae Production Development by Purification of Wastewaters
It is known that the biological method is considered the most effective and economically efficient method for the purification of industrial wastewater by using the microbiological active slime and alga. However, bacteria of the active slime have low stability to high concentration of organic and mineral components, thus considering big water flow volumes. This method also requires further destruction of superfluous quantity of active slime.

Microalgae have higher stability, which enables working in more concentrated and toxic environments. Microalgae Chlorella actively utilizes mineral elements, spirits, sugar, and amino acids and as compared with active slime enables higher purification rate (up to 96-98 % for organic and 80 % for mineral components, accordingly). While using microalgae, high norms of cleaning were shown for the phenol wastewater of Russian Ufa Chemical Plant, Polish plant of nitric fertilizers, sugar plants as well as cattle-breeding and poultry-farming complexes etc. The agricultural production waste (poultry excrement, cow's, sheep's and pig's dung, chrysalides of mulberry silkworm) practically were not used in microalgae industrial manufacturing, although the principle opportunity of their use was shown.

Researchers consider that beneficial effect of organic waste using as a microalgae nutrient solution is based on the following facts: high concentration of nitrogen, vitamins, amino acids and other biogenic elements in solution; enrichment of nutrient medium by carbonic gas (used in microalgae photosynthesis process), which is secreted in oxidation-reduction reactions of waste organic compounds decomposition and Growth-stimulant compounds contents in organic waste.

The EU Landfill Directive has forced waste management policies across the member states of the EU to reduce the amount of waste sent for disposal in landfill. This has opened the possibility of alternative approaches. It is known that active slime contains very pathogen microorganisms (E.coli, etc) that prohibit this waste use in agriculture. Traditionally, incineration is considered to be the next alternative for disposal. However, this approach has encountered high levels of resistance in many countries at the planning and permitting stage.

Maybe the criteria of the Landfill Directive can become the main drivers for the production of fuel fraction from active slime? But it is a complex technological process that makes monitoring far less uncomplicated. May be the criteria of the Landfill Directive can become the main drivers for the wastewater purification by use microalgae instead of active slime? Yes, because the microalgae business development is closely attached to the global progress trend and the international market demands.

Implementing Center Strategy
Our strategy believes that the cost saving of raw material with the use of wastewaters through their biological cleaning will help raise the availability of microalgae biomass for food, agriculture, medicinal and biofuel producers, thus leading to resolution of global tasks facing the world community. This task could have been solved in the USA ASP (program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algae), because new technological application by use wastewater was not developed in close of program.

The Center carried out research works for development technologies of microalgae cultivation in wastewaters of amino acids, Yerevan factory of chemical reagents and chloroprene rubber factory Nairit as well as wastewaters of enzyme and food industries. As a result the Center developed, in parallel ASP research, a cost-effective technology applying new innovational approaches in various stages of microalgae production. This technology includes nutrition of microalgae by using organic compounds of some manufactures wastewater which do not contain heavy metals and radioisotopes.

Presently, our pilot production business plan is in the stage of commercialization, both seeking for partners and looking at large-scale production of microalgae in open cement pools to increase the production volume excessively. Our strategy will allow producing microalgae through the use and purification of wastewaters which may be an additional source of profit, with no changes in tax law and subsidizing of nature protection actions. It will also include attracting farmers' resources to help them gain additional profit and find optimum ways for solution of problems on how to receive raw material for own biofuel production (biodiesel can produce at home) and increase quantity and quality of end-agro-products. This will therefore enable to raise the ground quality to make farmers' products more safe and attractive to buyers, as well as produce high quality feed and struggle further against mass epidemics that may generate poverty.

Consequently, these measures will help reduce the green house CO2 emission, the feed cost, waste amount and use of nitrogen fertilizers, increasing in the mean time the O2 content in atmosphere, food quality and its competitiveness in the market. Including microalgae production in cycles of industry and agriculture productions will be our adequate answer addressing climate change and guarantee for development sustainable strategies.

Our Center also has submitted R & D proposal on "Development technology of drugs destruction by using microalgae Chlorella" instead of traditional technology of the medicine destruction by their burning at temperature over 1200 degrees that may help mitigation atmosphere pollution and global warming.

The knowledge-based bio-economy will play an important role in our emerging reality. At present EC this sector market is estimated to be worth more than €1.5 trillion per year. In period of fuel price rising, the costs of organic chemistry and biotechnological fermentation industries products increase. In this condition sun microalgae production may be the main future resource for development of Life Industry, fuel production as well as for sustainable development of countries.

Changes in fuel production, all industry, agricultural technology drive economic growth in developing countries and contribute significantly to economic well-being in rich countries. Therefore including microalgae production by using waste and wastewater in production cycles opens new ways for environment friendly manufacturing and nature preservation. It is possible to expect that in the near future the abovementioned problems will be better perceived, thus leading to global reorientation of priorities for waste and wastewater management.

About the Author: Armen Avagyan is President of Research & Industry Centre of Photosynthesizing Organisms, Feed Additives and Physiologically Active Compounds LTD, Expert of Council of Chemistry and Petro Chemistry of the CIS countries and European Commission FP7 program. He can be contacted at arminaav@freenet.am, or +37491 922085.


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