ProFuture update: Which results have we achieved so far?

In this last project year, ProFuture partners are finalising their project work to be ready to discuss it with all stakeholders during the final conference in September 2023 in Brussels.

Already now, at the start of 2023, the consortium can present some interesting results, as well as the next steps needed to increase microalgae consumption in Europe.

Please find here an overview of results achieved so far in the main project tasks:

Innovation in cultivation & harvesting microalgae, led by Wageningen University

  • Developed 6 colorless Chlorella vulgaris mutants (3 pale green, 2 yellow and 1 white).
  • Installed a pilot for direct CO2 capture at Allmicroalgae (Portugal) that is providing CO2 directly from the air to produce microalgae without buying bottled CO2.
  • Scaled up an extremophile microalgae species (Galdieria sulphuraria) grown at 45 degrees and at pH 1-2; trials done at pilot scale (1300 litres).
  • Tested the use of insect production waste as culture medium for microalgae.
  • Scaled up the mutants grown on sugars (without sunlight), and the biomass was given to other ProFuture partners for further trials.
  • Testing different strategies to reduce costs: reactors running only on solar energy, expanding flat panels reactors to compare production strategies, testing different nitrogen sources.

Protein-rich ingredients, led by AlgoSource technologies (AST)

  • Solar drying has been selected as the most promising technology for producing microalgal single cell proteins (SCP), representing the best compromise for costs, environmental impact, and product quality.
  • The optimal process flow diagram has been identified to produce protein isolates from Tetraselmis chui, Arthrospira platensis and “light green” Chlorella vulgaris.
  • As the yield of soluble proteins was low, remarkable attention has been paid to the valorisation of co-products.
  • Complete biochemical and nutritional analysis have been performed on the different SCP generated in the WP as well as digestibility and safety tests.

Food & feed reformulations, led by Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA)

  • Partners developed recipes of several foods with microalgae to increase nutritional value while keeping good sensorial characteristics of each food.
  • The selected microalgae were: o Honey Chlorella (5 %) for carrot soup, o Smooth Chlorella (3 %) for pasta, o Golden Chlorella (3 %) for Vegan sausage, o Spirulina (1.5 %) for baked goods like crackers and vegetable cream, o Spirulina (5 %) for energetic bars.
  • Microalgae strains are being analysed for their compatibility in feed matrices on an iso-nutritional/iso-energic basis.
  • Nannochloropsis oceanica was retained as the main algae specie and feeds were formulated replacing half of the protein content from soya in feeds for pigs and poultry.
  • Microalgae inclusion rate of 10 % was chosen for fish and shrimp feed.

Scale-up at industrial level, led by Necton

  • This work has started recently with the selection of the microalgae strains for the industrial production of innovative foods and feeds, taking into account the results of the ProFuture work done on food & feed reformulations.
  • In the first semester of 2023, industrial partners will use Spirulina and different kinds of Chlorella for food formulations and consumer studies.
  • Regarding the feed formulations, Nannochloropsis was the preferred microalgae and is now being tested in animal trials.

Responsible & sustainable value chain, led by Apexagri

  • After mapping and identifying the main actors and societal perspectives on microalgae-based food and feed value chains, partners are currently working on the analysis of life cycles in terms of economic and environmental impacts.
  • The next step will be the analysis of the valorisation of by-products and a transversal data collection between all Profuture work packages in order to create a decision support tool to optimize the value chain.

Consumer acceptance and perception, led by Ghent University

  • Consumers’ attitudes towards food products with microalgae-proteins are in general favourable.
  • Despite the relatively low familiarity, consumers tend to be willing to try or consume these products again.
  • Partners did a series of qualitative and quantitative studies, showing that food products with microalgae-proteins are often perceived as ‘innovative’, ‘sustainable’, ‘healthy’ and ‘environmental friendly’.
  • The next steps will be to test ProFuture products to assess consumer sensory acceptance and communication preference.

Regulation, Business Model & Marketing Strategy, led by Civitta Eesti AS

  • The main goal of this task is to create a strategic plan for ProFuture’s market exploitation.
  • Market analysis with an overview of the market potential of microalgae ingredients for food and feed was conducted and a business model is under development to define the marketing entry strategies.
  • Moreover, a preliminary regulatory assessment focused on the analysis of legal barriers in the microalgae market was carried out.
  • Scientific articles have been studied, to find weak points in accordance with the risk assessment made by EFSA during the novel food application procedure.