The Canadian firm, which aims to supply commercial quantities of EPA/DHA-rich oil from microalgae by early next year, says it will be able to make 1,060kg/month by late 2012 and 4,000kg/month by the end of 2013.
AlgaeBio claims its production site creates “near perfect” growing conditions for microalgae because it sits above an underground salt dome that interacts with the Coconino Aquifer - a vast underground sea - to produce “pristine” saline groundwater.
The $5m first phase of its plant expansion, which will involve 1,500 proprietary bioreactors plus harvesting and support equipment, is set for completion by December 31, and will be managed by MMI Construction Services.
Employee numbers will increase from seven to 19 by September 2014, said AlgaeBio, which has also started the process of securing self-affirmed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for its oils.
Algal omega-3 market heats up
The algal omega-3 market is rapidly heating up, with AlgaeBio promising to shake things up next year, Aurora Algae poised to enter the market with an EPA-rich oil produced from a new facility in Australia, and market leader Martek recently launching DHA-O, a new product sourced from a strain of algae containing both EPA and DHA.
While these firms are all operating in the vegetarian long chain omega-3 market, however, they are arguably catering for slightly different sections of it (Martek is still best-known for DHA, Aurora is focused on EPA and AlgaeBio will provide a combination of EPA and DHA).
They also operate very different production models.
Martek’s DHA, for example, is produced in a heterotrophic (in absence of sunlight) batch process via fermentation in big vats to which sugar, water and salt are added to help the algae grow before it is then harvested and dried.
The oil is then recovered using high pressure homogenization and solvent extraction or an enzymatic process (depending on the microalgae type).
Cost effective production
By contrast, AlgaeBio uses a different species of algae that grows via photosynthesis (autotrophic process) in a natural salt water aquifer using a continuous closed loop system benefiting from all-year-round sunlight.
This was a more cost effective process, claimed chairman Bob Thompson.
“Our proprietary technologies regarding bioreactor design, harvesting equipment and extraction methodologies, combined with the availability of no-cost, pristine brine water, enable us to drive down substantially the cost of production to a point that is simply not achievable by our competitors.”