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INEGI empowers the macroalgae growing industry with solutions to increase efficiency

14 April 2021
The goal was fulfilled: to use science and technology to boost the cultivation of marine macroalgae, improving their global performance, efficiency and sustainability. Four years after its start, the European project GENIALG is nearing completion, and one of the promising results is the systems that were born from the collaboration between INEGI and the company Alga+.

To meet the needs identified by the company, INEGI's team of experts developed a modular system for collecting algae, and designed algae cultivation tanks (raceways) for implementation in earth tanks (esteiros).

As Tiago Morais, responsible for the project at INEGI, says, "the raceways are long and narrow tanks built in situ, forming an artificial channel with continuous water flow", and the intervention "allowed the configuration of a geometry that ensures the water flow continues to boost the growth of macroalgae”.

In parallel, it was also "identified the best position for installing raceways in earth tanks, with the objective of minimizing the energy consumption associated with the use of water pumping systems, thus maximizing the use of the variation of the tides for the renewal of water in the Aveiro estuary”.

All of this taking into account the ideal conditions for algae to thrive, from homogenizing the speed of water, to sun exposure. The process of selecting raceway coverings was also a factor analyzed, since "the cultivation of macroalgae is essentially intended for human consumption, and the construction of raceways is subject to the restrictions imposed on the installation site, which is a protected area" .

Macroalgae cultivation is still a growing industry

With these solutions, Alga+, a company based in Ria de Aveiro, will significantly increase the production area for algae cultivation. The cultivation of seaweed is a valuable source of several compounds with great potential to be used by the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries. This activity, despite its growth potential in Portugal and Europe, has high production costs and reduced maturity of available technologies.

"The technology for the production of macroalgae in a multitrophic aquaculture regime is still in the study and optimization phase", adds Tiago Morais, "however the gains obtained during this project are quite relevant for this growing industry”.

The GENIALG - GENetic diversity exploitation for Innovative macro-ALGal biorefinery project, brought together 19 partners from 6 countries, and was funded by the Horizon 2020 Program (2014-2020).