US microalgal oils firm BioProcess Algae has struck a deal with KD-Pharma - the German fats and oils division of Swiss firm Bioseutica - to supply it with ultra-concentrated EPA-rich omega-3 oils for nutraceutical and pharma applications.
Under the deal, BioProcess Algae will supply oils to be refined by KD-Pharma's supercritical fluid technology (KD-pur).
Unlike the heterotrophic (in absence of sunlight) process of growing microalgae via fermentation in large steel vats and feeding it with sugar-based feedstocks, BioProcess Algae grows its algae via photosynthesis (an autotrophic process) in biofilms exposed to light and uses waste heat and carbon dioxide from a co-located ethanol production facility in Iowa.
Novel algal ingredients market heats up
BioProcess Algae is one of several recent entrants to the algal ingredients market, joining Solazyme-Roquette Nutritionals (which has just launched a unique algal flour for reduced fat products), Aurora Algae (promising an ultra- concentrated 65% EPA-rich oil), Algae Biosciences (generating oils containing sought-after long chain omega-3s EPA and DHA) and Renewable Algal Energy (promising novel algal oils and proteins by Q3, 2012).
However, direct comparisons between these players are difficult as each have different microalgae strains, different technologies and different end products.
Unusual manufacturing process a USP in the algal omega market
CEO Tim Burns added: “Our strategy is to continue to expand our co-location operations by growing high-quality feedstock at attractive prices.
“We intend to integrate additional off-takes to increase our operational efficiency, continue to gain economies of scale and to enhance profitability, and this agreement will enable us to expand commercial development toward this goal.
“We see many synergies with KD-Pharma and are excited to be working together."
Peter Lembke, VP, and business development manager at Bioseutica, said: “Securing access to their algae oil will enable us to offer a unique, sustainable vegetable-based EPA-rich product that cannot be found in the marketplace today."
Who has the most cost-effective production process?
A joint venture between filtration firm Clarcor, wastewater purification expert BioProcess Holdings, and leading ethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy, BioProcess Algae has been progressively ramping up production capacity at its facility at Green Plains’ ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa.
BioProcess’s Grower Harvester bioreactors have been tied directly into the Green Plains plant's CO2 exhaust gas since October 2009, BioProcess CEO Tim Burns told NutraIngredients-USA in a recent interview.
“Green Plains has nine ethanol facilities, each of which could support a BioProcess Algae facility. But there are more than 200 ethanol plants in the USA and we are exploring other co-location opportunities all over the USA.”
He added: “There will be a lot more entrants to this market, so what it will come down to is who has the most cost effective production process, and we have a unique, low cost, production platform.”
A different approach
Senior scientist Toby Ahrens added: “Our approach is quite different from the traditional approach of growing in liquid cultures.
“We are able to drive down production costs by growing in controlled biofilms and bringing the algae out of the water into the light for increased productivity and lower dewatering costs.
Burns entered the algae business several years ago by adapting filtration technology developed by another company he co-founded, BioProcess H2O, which manufactures filaments to help grow waste-filtering bacteria.
Based in Lugano, Switzerland, Bioseutica offers purification, manufacturing and formulation for a variety of products including lysozyme and trypsin enzymes for nutritional and pharmaceutical applications.
Its fats and lipids division KD-Pharma is based in Bexbach, Germany and is a leading producer of purified, pharmaceutical-grade omega-3s.