About microalgae

Microalgae are prokaryotic (procaryota - gr pro = before; karyon = walnut, nucleus) and eukaryotic (eukaryot - gr eu = good) photosynthetic microorganisms characterized by a simple cellular structure consisting of a cell wall and membrane, but without the formed nuclear membrane. Microalgae are with over 2 billion years of existence considered to be the oldest living cellular organisms on Earth.

Depending on the type, their size can vary from a few micrometers to several hundred micrometers (µm), and according to their size, they can be classified into four main categories:

1. Microplankton (20 - 1000 µm)

2. Nanoplankton (2 - 100 µm)

3. Ultraplankton (0.5 - 15 µm)

4. Picoplankton (0.2 - 2 µm)

The most common representatives of the industrially significant prokaryotic microalgae are cyanobacteria (Cyanophyceae), eukaryotic microalgae Euglenoids (Euglenophyta), diatoms (Bacyllariophita), golden microalgae (Chrysophyceae) and some green microalgae species (Chlorophyta and Bacyllariophi). Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae are prokaryotic organisms close to bacteria and have an important role in binding atmospheric nitrogen. The simple cellular structure of microalgae enables rapid and successful growth even under adverse conditions and therefore they are present in most diverse and extreme examples of ecosystems: from deserts or undersea heat sources to microalgae found under the Antarctic ice. So far, over 50,000 different species of microalgae have been taxonomically described, however, their number is far higher and according to some sources there are over 400,000 different, mostly unclassified microalgae species.

It is estimated that microalgae and microalgae products are found in over 70% of food products. The food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and chemical industries are increasingly focusing on microalgae.

The favorable morphological and physiological characteristics of microalgae, in addition to their direct application, allow their utilization in various biotechnological processes such as production of antioxidants, drugs, polyunsaturated fatty acids (so-called "omega 3") immunostimulants, biofuels, natural colouring agents, nutritional supplements, etc. Biomass of microalgae is increasingly requested in terms of lipid isolation from biomass and production of biodiesel, as well as other types of biofuels (methane, biohydrogen, ethanol, etc.).

Microalgae in the production of valuable products

Various studies have also shown that microalgae proteins are highly valuable and can be compared to conventional plant proteins. Currently there are intense global researches to increase the concentration and modification of the accumulation of lipids, alcohols, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, etc. through genetic engineering methods. Microalgae can also be used as fertilizers, especially for the purpose of retaining atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, which causes an increase in soil fertility, but also to increase yields in aquaculture. Newer applications that are still under development are the ability to plastify and integrate into various types of biodegradable plastics, and are also used in the production of biodegradable thermoplastics such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). Unlimited usage possibilities are yet to be discovered in the decades to come.

˝Phyox˝ is focused on the production of microalgae suitable for use in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

According to scientific forecasts, the amount of food produced must double to meet the needs of the world population, which, according to UN forecasts, will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. Today, about one billion people do not have adequate protein intake, and current conventional protein sources are estimated to be deficient.

Both in the world and in the EU, animal proteins are consumed in greater quantities than plant proteins, causing significant adverse environmental effects. Environmental concerns, unsustainability of traditional food production, and increasing awareness of animal welfare are increasing the demand for "alternative" protein sources.

The chemical composition of microalgae indicates their significant role in the future nutrition where they will increasingly be used as a source of proteins and minerals. Further increase of climate change awareness also contributes to the increase in people using predominantly or exclusively proteins of non-animal origin (macrobiotic diet and vegans), which is currently estimated at around 900 million worldwide.

It is estimated that classical agro-technical measures in food production in open agricultural areas have reached their peak. In addition, the total amount of arable land due to climate change is globally decreasing. The cultivation of microalgae biomass requires much smaller soil surface area compared to the production of animal and plant proteins. It is estimated that less than 2.5 m2 of soil is needed to produce 1 kg of proteins from microalgae per year, compared to 42 - 52 m2 of arable land required to produce 1 kg of chicken, or 47-64 m2 for 1 kg of pork, or even 144 - 258 m2 for the production of 1 kg of beef. An additional advantage of microalgae as a source of protein is the possibility of using arable land for their cultivation, minimal consumption of fresh water and the possibility of cultivation in seawater.

 

Amount in tonnes of product per hectare of arable land

Dry biomass

Proteins

Fuel

Maize

7 – 18

0,8 - 2

0,2

Soy

6–7

1,8 - 2,5

0,5

Rape

3–4

0,6 – 1,3

1,2

Oil palm

2–3

0,2

6,0

Miscanthus

15 – 25

 

 

Mikroalgae

30 – 550

15 - 70

46,9 - 140,7

Microalgae absorb CO2 for their growth and release oxygen back into the air. Only the first phase of our project will result in the absorption of about 120 tonnes of CO2, i.e. the amount absorbed by as much as 22ha of forests.