Aurora Algae, formerly Aurora Biofuels, earlier this week introduced what the company says is the industry’s first photosynthetic algae-based platform for the production of sustainable products in the fuel as well as pharmaceutical, nutritional supplement and aquaculture markets. The announcement marks Aurora Algae’s transition from pilot technology development into full-scale commercialization of the company’s proprietary algae products.
“For the past four years we have focused on developing high-performance, versatile strains of algae in preparation for full-scale commercialization – and to be able to say we have reached the end of that development process is exciting,” said Greg Bafalis, CEO.
The company says its high-performance biodiesel can be produced in low-cost commercial quantities to address a variety of energy applications, including transportation. It will be used to fuel people too, in the form of high-concentration Omega-3 fatty acids in health supplements and rich protein extracts for food types and beverages.
The process involves salt-water algae strains that thrive in open ponds of seawater. For being of a lighter color than wild-type algae, sunlight can penetrate it deeper and consequently extend the zone for algae reproduction, which increases yield. To harvest it more efficiently, the company will be using technology commonly used in the waste-water treatment industry rather than using a traditional centrifuge approach.
Another selling point is that Aurora’s algae flourishes in arid climates and utilizes photosynthesis and seawater. The company says it will locate production facilities in regions that are non-competitive with agriculture as world protein consumption is set to increase 74 percent by 2050. By providing high-concentration EPA oils and protein extracts, the company hopes to address the growing worldwide demand for protein and Omega-3 fatty acids while reducing overfishing.
All of the these elements in conjunction with an ability to take excess carbon dioxide from third-party industrial plants will result in low-cost, carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative products, the company claims.
“By taking a photosynthetic approach to algae cultivation in open pond farms, we’re able to achieve production costs that rival the lowest cost producers focused solely on the fuels market,” said Brian Hinman, Aurora Algae executive chairman and venture partner at Oak Investment Partners. He adds that by focusing high-value market segments served today by competitors with a higher-cost fermentation process, Aurora can generate attractive returns from the first commercial facility with no government subsidies.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.