The microalgae arena gets ever busier

Several new developments in the world of microalgae-derived ingredients have transpired recently. Agribusiness giant, ADM, is entering the fray to produce DHA, and there’s a new name hailing from Portugal and that’s calling for its products to be considered for several good reasons.

In the US, Archer Daniels Midland and Synthetic Genomics have announced a long-term agreement to commercialise omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) from algae.

As part of the agreement, omega-3 DHA will be produced and marketed throughout the world by ADM’s Foods & Wellness and Animal Nutrition groups.

DHA is typically found in fish and seafood products, but extracting DHA directly from algae grown in fermentation tanks yields a highly purified form of DHA, which can then be used as a dietary supplement for humans and in animal feed, the companies said.

“The ADM partnership with SGI will prove beneficial for both companies by capitalising on the strengths of SGI’s technologies and know-how while using ADM’s significant scale and production capabilities to commercialise important products demanded by our customers,” said Brent Fenton, president of ADM Animal Nutrition.

Across the Atlantic, a new global player with a premium-quality proposition has entered the thriving market for microalgae ingredients suitable for use in food, beverage and dietary supplement products.

Allma, based in Portugal, supplies natural, sun-grown Chlorella powder that is free from contaminants and rich in phytonutrients, proteins, vitamins and minerals – creating a wealth of opportunities for new product development.

Allma’s Chlorella is grown at the state-of-the-art Algafarm production unit in Leiria, 100km north of Lisbon, in closed food-grade photo-bioreactors. The photo-bioreactors are exposed to sunlight to encourage photosynthesis, mimicking the growth of microalgae as it occurs in nature.

Sun-grown Chlorella, it claims, is highly valued because it is exceptionally high in nutrients that develop naturally as a result of exposure to the sun. However, because Allma’s Chlorella is grown in closed production systems, there is far less risk of the contamination often associated with Chlorella produced in uncovered ‘ponds’ that are exposed to external elements.

Using gentle spray-drying technology, the Chlorella is converted into a powder that’s easy to use in a wide range of applications, including beverages, yoghurt, ice cream, cookies, snacks and dietary supplements – and many more.

Beyond its outstanding nutritional qualities, Chlorella can also be used in foods to add a natural green colour that gives a product a distinct ‘health halo’.

João Navalho, director of Allma, said: “The market for microalgae ingredients is very buoyant but most of what is available today is sold as a commodity with very little focus on quality. Our Chlorella breaks the mould in the sense that while it is produced in the high volumes the industry requires, it is grown to be far superior in terms of nutrient content and purity.

“Our entry into this market is a significant development because, for the first time, companies will be able to access the very best microalgae ingredients in the quantities they require, at competitive prices and produced in accordance with demanding European food safety laws.”

Additional reading:

The global algae oil omega-3 market in 2014: A Frost & Sullivan report

Many companies have invested a significant effort in developing processes to extract these microalgae-derived PUFAs in a commercially feasible way.

The former Martek Biosciences Corporation, now a part of Royal DSM as of the end of 2010, has been the most successful microalgae company to develop a patented process to produce DHA-rich oil for infant formula, dietary supplements, food and beverage fortification, and animal feed applications.

Other companies producing algae-based DHA +30% oils include Lonza Group, Cellana, Rishon International Group, Hubei Youzhiyou Biotechnology Co, Hubei Fuxing Biotechnology Co, Shantou Runke Biological Engineering Company, Wuhan Bioco Sci & Tech Dev Co, and Cargill Alking Bioengineering (Wuhan) Co.

In Europe, Lonza has limited presence (<10%), and in Asia, a few Chinese manufacturers sell algae based omega-3 PUFAs. However, DSM was the global leading producer of algae based omega-3 ingredients. In 2012, DSM was the primary supplier of Algae based DHA omega-3 for the US market (with approximately 80 percent market share). DSM also is the market leader in Europe and most of Asia (not including China)…..

Related news: Is algae-derived DHA as healthy as fish oil DHA?

A review of research earlier this year found mostly good news in this vegetarian source….