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ALGAE TO FUTURE From Fundamental Algae Research to Applied Industrial Practice

Alternative title: MIKROALGER mot Framtiden- Fra grunnforskning til anvendt industriell praksis

Awarded: NOK 40.2 mill.

The main goal of the ALGAE TO FUTURE (A2F) project has been to contribute to laying the foundation for industrial microalgae production in Norway, utilizing Norwegian natural resources. The project has explored the algae's potential to produce high quality proteins, omega-3-fatty acids and carbohydrates for use in food and feed. A2F's national and international research and commercial partners have established a collaboration within many different aspects of algae cultivation and use of algae biomass for food and feed, which will benefit Norwegian industry. The project has developed cultivation techniques for production of targeted algae biomass, which has been taken forward for testing and product development for food and fishfeed end-products. The project has benefitted from the facilities for upscaled microalgae cultivation both at Mongstad and NIBIO Ås, and the implementation of microalga cultivation within agriculture has been tested at a pilot farm in Stryn, led by Folvengaard AS. Within A2F, experts in microalgae technology, photobioreactor design, stress physiology, biorefining, food quality, food safety, bioeconomy, fish feed, beer brewing and bread baking have co-operated to find good technical and industrial solutions that can contribute towards a future microalgae based production within agriculture, aquaculture and process industry. A2F partners have endeavoured to ensure interactions between research, industry and consumers to establish how algae biomass can become part of future food- and feed production. A2F has developed three value chains using microalgae with optimised content of proteins, starch and omega-3 fatty acids, for the example products bread, beer and fish feed. Food safety and consumer acceptance have been given strong focus in the project work. A2F's vision has also been to develop a knowledge- and technology platform for future production of different products based on microalgae. Hence, A2F partners have focused upon recruitment and education of young researchers and technicians. Furthermore, emphasis has been on ensuring a broad distribution and application of project results. A2F partner Folvengaard AS was granted the Agriculture Innovation Award 2020 for implementation of microalgae cultivation at farm level, this in close co-operation with NIBIO.

The production of microalgae, and the use of microalgae as an ingredient in food and feed products, is an up and coming industry in Europe, which Norway until now could not really be considered as part of. This is in the process of changing, slowly we get new, small microalgae companies also in Norway. The results obtained through the ALGAE TO FUTURE project are highly useful for these emerging microalgae production industries on topics such as bioreactor technology, cultivation technology, pretreatment of microalgae biomass, storage conditions. Innovations with potential importance for the food industry has also been accomplished. Microalgae as ingredients to improve the quality of traditional food products, exemplified by increased nutrient content in bread, has shown potential for further development into new products acceptable for the consumers. Another example is microalgae as active ingredient in brewing, which in this project has shown great promise in the development of new and innovative beer products which both research- and industry partners on this topic are eager to follow up and further develop. The third example product which has been explored in this project, is microalgae for fish feed, which also have shown promising results. Microalgae as successful feed ingredient in the aquaculture industry has a large market potential, due to the considerable market size. Hence the ALGAE TO FUTURE project has brought project partners forward in many aspects such as microalgae cultivation and processing, food/ feed production. Insight into other partners competence and plans lays the basis for future co-operation/project developments taking the ALGAE TO FUTURE knowledge basis further. Also networks are being built, new constellations emerge both nationally and internationally, as well as between research institutes and industry and other stakeholders. Furthermore, the project has provided a broad dissemination of information about project activities to stakeholders and the general public through different media both nationally and internationally. We believe that the outcomes of this project will be important for future research and industrial development of microalgae technology as was outlined in the ALGAE TO FUTURE vision, and is also documented already by both new project developments, project proposals to inter alia the RCN, EU and the EEA, as well as joint research and industry developments.

By targeting microalgae, ALGAE2FUTURE (A2F) intends to explore their potential to be low-carbon-footprint healthy ingredients for future food and feed. The main objective of A2F is to lay the foundation for industrial microalgae production in Norway, utilizing natural resources and waste streams from existing production lines within agriculture, aquaculture and process industry. This concerted Norwegian-Dutch-Portuguese- Spanish-Belgian-Japanese research initiative will be facilitated by employing the Microalgae Pilot facility at Mongstad, and a network of photobioreactors used for microalgae cultivation throughout Norway, in order to provide algae biomass for application testing and product evaluation in a co-innovation framework with industry end-users. A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) will be performed based on the production line at the Cluster of Farmers headed by Folven Gård. Partners will interact with their relevant scientific and commercial expertise in disciplines and fields such as microalgae technology, stress physiology, biorefining, baking technology, fish nutrition and feed technology, food quality and safety, bioeconomy, broadcast journalism and animation. Together with a Multi-Actor team (Reference Group), consisting of a wide panoply of end-users, the Consortium will ensure optimal interactions between research, industry and consumers for future food and feed. A2F will develop three approved microalgal production chains demonstrating the potential of various uses of algal biomass rich in respectively starch, protein and omega-3-fatty acids. A2F focuses on food safety aspects of the products for their market acceptance. All parties involved will pay special attention to the recruiting and training of young researchers, including master students, PhDs and Post docs. There will be a number of mobility activities throughout the project period. A2F will implement a Communication Strategy for optimal exploitation and dissemination of Project results.

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