Can you imagine real superfoods for humans? Foods able to cover all a person’s basic nutritional requirements? This is what the “Algae for Healthy World” project has set out to achieve. An initiative that brings together seven companies and institutions and which has emerged from under the cloak of Endesa’s thermal power station in Carboneras (Almería), where the use of microalgae for the sequestration of CO2, due to their high absorption capability, has been studied since 2006.
To give us an idea, the power of CO2 sequestration of microalgae is four times higher than that of woodland; for this reason, research on microalgae was commenced in Carboneras along these lines. Now, however, the study focuses on the nutritional use of these micro-organisms. “Nowadays we already know general properties of microalgae, but we want to go further. The idea is to obtain high value-added foodstuffs for use in the agri-food or pharmaceutical industries or in gourmet cooking,” explains Roberto Andrés, manager of the project and of Endesa’s microalgae pilot facility.
Microalgae are not a novelty in the field of nutrition. These micro-organisms, which live by our side every day on beaches and coastlines, were already used as food in ancient China over 2,000 years ago. People fell back on them for food at times of scarcity and famine, although their use has not been exploited to date. Now the A4HW project has two years in which to make it a reality. Two years to transform three microalgae -Spirulina, Nannochloropsis Gaditana and Pyrocistis- into real superfoods: antioxidant pigments, bioactive compounds of a proteic nature, or sugars. And all of these are alternatives to the hydrogenated fats that cause so many cardiovascular problems.
All the actors involved in the project
Algae for Healthy World is a project led by Endesa coordinated by the University of Cádiz and enjoys the participation of partners such as AINIA, Mar de Cristal Marilium, the Spanish National Department for Scientific Research (CSIC), Novatec and Neoalgae. It has a budget of one million Euros, (co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) of the European Union within the “Cooperation Challenges” programme of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities), and its aim is to establish Spain as a leader in the production of these bioproducts.
One of the aspects where the A4HW project aims to move forward is in the knowledge of bioluminescence. The research executed by Mar de Cristal Marilium, led by the chef and “Michelin star” Ángel León, based on studies performed by the University of Cádiz, headquarters of the International Campus of Excellence of the Sea, will act as a starting-point. His research laboratory has been able to take light from the sea and to serve it at the table. He has managed to select different luminescent bacteria and species of phytoplankton, to provide them with optimal conditions of temperature, pH or nutrients and to achieve a technique capable of generating light on a dish for over 20 minutes.
The CSIC will contribute to the project its knowledge in the field of microbiology and molecular biology. AINIA will participate as a technological centre specialising in cutting-edge technologies in the food sector. Neoalgae (a company specialising in consulting for microalgae cultivation) will execute the designs of the harvesting systems and control systems to optimise the production of microalgae. And Novatec (an engineering company) will fill the gap existing between laboratory and industrial processes in the field of application of microalgae.