Dutch consortium pushes for microalgae

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In the Netherlands, the Multi-product Integrated bioRefinery of Algae (MIRACLE), a public-private consortium, is working to improve the economic viability of microalgae-based products, including oils, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, food, cosmetics, and plastics.

Microalgae are an ideal production source, as they only require seawater, carbon dioxide, basic nutrients, and sunlight to thrive and multiply. The project is working on innovations during cultivation, harvesting, processing and marketing.

“We grow them in sea water, and you have very few agricultural crops that can grow in sea water. We can put these systems on land which is not fertile, we can go to the desert, we can use land that’s not available for agriculture,” says Hans Reith, MIRACLE project coordinator.

MIRACLE has made a number of products since launching, including a bioplastic flower plant from microalgae.  “Here, we tried to use the nutritional value that you have in algae… this bioplastic will degrade slowly in a water environment, and slowly release the nutrients,” says the project’s exploitation officer, Philippe Willems.

Portugal-based Sparos is developing aquaculture applications for microalgae.  “It’s important to study how the use of these microalgae in feeds benefits the fish—or not, though we mainly find beneficial effects—in terms of its immunology, its stress response, and its well-being,” Jorge Dias, a researcher in marine biology at Sparos, tells euronews.