The Israeli firm, which recently announced a significant boost to its production capacity for the potent red antioxidant astaxanthin, was “constantly improving cultivation processes by optimizing the cultivation conditions for a more efficient production of our AstaPure natural astaxanthin brand”, marketing and sales director Efrat Kat told NutraIngredients-USA.
“In addition… Algatechnologies has decided to widen its capabilities in the development of new microalgae cultivation technologies and therefore we are currently in a process of establishing a new pilot plant and beta site to enable the testing and implementation of state-of-the-art and innovative technologies for the efficient production of a variety of active ingredients, all sourced from microalgae.
“Algatech already has a pilot plant for certain microalgae cultivation technologies. We are planning to add different shape of bioreactors and new equipments to allow us developing additional products and widen our capabilities in microalgae cultivation methods, downstream processing, harvesting and drying.”
Only a handful of 30,000 microalgae species with potential
She would not be drawn on whether proteins, omega-3s, carotenoids or other ingredients were the focus of the new research, but added: “We are still exploring different options but over the years we have developed proven methods for the enrichment of microalgae strains. These abilities include methods for accelerated evolution and the selection of enriched microalgae lines for specific applications and/or tasks.
“The main idea behind our decision to widen our capabilities in microalgae cultivations is the company's objective to continue developing, producing and commercializing advanced algal-based products.”
Industry had barely scratched the surface when it came to exploring the potential of microalgae, she added: “About 30,000 different species of microalgae that produce unique and potentially useful chemicals have been identified.
“Despite this, only a few species have been harnessed for practical commercial purposes. The reason for this is that commercial cultivation of microalgae requires delicately balancing the cultivation technologies, the location and the product to be produced.
“We are engaged in a number of research and development projects, for example the European GIAVAP project aiming to explore new species, uses and products from microalgae to commercialize.”
Functional foods with AstaPure set for US launch in 2012
While the firm's AstaPure astaxanthin had been used in functional foods and beverages in Japan for several years, it does not yet feature in foods sold in the US, she said.
However, interest was starting to build and products were likely to hit shelves in 2012, she predicted.
“Since Algatech obtained GRAS status for AstaPure we have been contacted by companies interested in developing food products with astaxanthin. Due to the fact that such developments tend to take some time, we believe that only during 2012 we will see new products on the market.”
Interest was coming from firms in beverages, bars and dairy products, she said.
“We see a growing interest from many food companies to develop food products with natural astaxanthin. It is an extremely powerful antioxidant with proven health benefits and active at very low dosage.”