12 January 2016 | Category: Algae, Biomass, Governance & Policy, Projects

AlgaePARC: Algae as a sustainable raw material in the biobased economy

By René Wijffels

Professor in bioprocess engineering

Algae are said to be the green gold of the biobased economy. They are crammed with oils, fats, proteins and sugars. These ingredients are crucial in the production of food, animal feed, chemicals, materials and fuels. Wageningen University & Research is working on technology that will allow production chains for bulk products from algae to be developed in an economically efficient and sustainable way, for example in the project AlgaePARC.

Since 2010, we have been working on a roadmap to enable commercial production of algae for bulk products within a period of 15 years. This roadmap includes several research projects.


AlgaePARC and other projects

The AlgaePARC pilot facility on the Wageningen University & Research campus is examining various production methods that will allow us to bridge the gap between research and commercial application. We also play a leading role in several major EU FP7 research projects. An example is FUEL4ME, which focuses on the development of production chains for fuel from algae. The SPLASH project involves the production of biopolymers, while the MIRACLES project focuses on algae as a raw material for food and animal feed. We work closely together with the private sector in all these frameworks.




A boost for the Dutch economy

Algae hold great promise for the Dutch economy. Our main interest in the context of the development of a production chain for algae is that the Netherlands will thereby gain a sustainable raw material for our agro-food, chemical and fuel industries. In addition, Dutch companies will be able to supply technology related to the production and biorefinery of algae.


Five years of research

After five years of research, we have seen production costs fall by half. The ultimate goal is a production cost of less than one euro per kilo of dry matter. We are on track to achieve goal. Nonetheless, considerable technological steps are still required before algae can become a true pillar of the biobased economy.


Opportunities in niche markets

There are already plenty of opportunities for using algae as a raw material in food and animal feed markets  – e.g. as an additive in food products and animal feed, or, in a completely different function, to purify wastewater. In the latter application, algae also ensure that scarce phosphates are preserved for the purpose of food production.

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By René Wijffels

Professor in bioprocess engineering

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