MICROALGAE - COMPETITIVE NOW !! TIME TO ACT

AIB has developed economically attractive closed systems for microalgae production as opposed to the open raceway ponds used worldwide. This major breakthrough will accelerate opportunities within the industry by lowering production costs, vastly increasing the number of species that can be grown, improving yield quality and introducing more flexibility of inputs. NASA has trialled one of AIB’s earlier patented breakthrough systems (see illustration below, from Nasa website) and that system has now been superseded to be even more flexible and efficient.

 


Omega System


Jag’s expertise in growing microalgae is recognised including by an invitation to write the chapter on microalgae growing systems in a book to be published in 2019 where the World’s leading microalgae experts will contribute chapters in their own field of expertise.


A little history

From the 1950’s to the 70’s when modern research on microalgae started, excitement built up over the massive potential of microalgae for all manner of use. It resulted in the US Government undertaking a co-ordinated “moon-shot” at making microalgae a mainstream industry. They got the major universities and research stations to work together and threw large new sums of money into what was called the “Aquatic Species Program” This ran from 1976 to 1996 and many reports were produced culminating in the closing report produced in 1998 which was generally regarded as the bible of the industry.


Jagjit Singh Kaurah (Jag), decided in 2005/2006 to dedicate the rest of his life to helping Planet Earth and its varied life and decided that growing very clean microalgae at a very low cost was a good way to do it.


He found it strange that the report, as one of its conclusions, stated that raceway ponds were the only viable way forward and that closed systems were unlikely ever to become economic. This essentially meant that the report was saying: forget about microalgae except for the 4, 5 or so species out of the hundreds of thousands of species that can grow in raceway ponds.


In open raceway ponds if species A is being grown, species B, C, D, E,…..will become invasive species unless species A, like spirulina, grows in extreme conditions like high Ph preventing other species from growing.


To grow most of the species, one needs closed growing systems with all inputs sterilised.

At that time the current wisdom that closed systems of growing microalgae are unlikely ever to be economic was taken as true due to the Aquatic Species Report.


Jag decided to work on closed systems for microalgae to open the door to a vast treasure due to their massive genetic base. Microalgae are a huge untapped genetic resource.


The first patent was filed in Malaysia and also under the PCT system for the Floating Bed Method (FBM) in Feb 2007. This patent was published by WIPO in September 2008. See http://www.google.com/patents/WO2008105649A1?cl=koIt 


It caused a major sensation; a low cost closed system for growing microalgae had been disclosed for the first time. Large numbers of universities, research organizations including NASA and the Weizmann Institute and many private organizations tried out the system for themselves. See the NASA program that started about 9 months after the above patent publication: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/OMEGA/


This was a key turning point in microalgae and much of what is now happening in the microalgae world started from that patent.


Several closed systems of growing microalgae have been developed including the Concentrated Solar Microalgae Cultivation system – COSMAC in 2014 and the Simple Low Cost Microalgae cultivation system is called SILCOMS in 2017

This fundamentally changes the economics of microalgae and makes algal culture competitive with agriculture for the first time. Beyond that, a closed system can grow most of the hundreds of thousands of species opening up a vast treasure trove of excellent products.


All that work has been licensed to Algae International Berhad (AIB), a Malaysian unlisted public company with a view to listing by 2019.


The FBM, COSMAC and SILCOMS systems are ready and can now be applied commercially.


Important


It has been conventional wisdom that raceway ponds produce the lowest cost of algal biomass meaning that algal biomass grown using closed systems are more expensive.


That is no more true with the latest closed systems from AIB. Closed systems can compete with open raceway ponds in terms of cost of algal biomass produced with the added advantage that:

  1. The product is clean;

  2. Many more species can be grown. In fact, most of the hundreds of thousands of species can be grown using AIB closed systems;

  3. There is more control of the growing process