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The algae value chain landscape - a competitive technical challenge

McHenry, M. (2009) The algae value chain landscape - a competitive technical challenge. Division of Research and Development, and the School of Engineering and Energy, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.



Algae are a diverse group of organisms generally categorised as either macroalgae (i.e. seaweed), or microalgae, which are typically unicellular. Algae are the bottom of the food chain in all aquatic ecosystems and there are an estimated 25,000 microalgae species, with only around 15 in current commercial use. This primarily untapped resource produces an estimated 5000 tonnes of commercial biomass each year, which is valued at almost USD1.5 billion annually. Commercial algae systems to date produce human food, non-human food, neutraceuticals, biomass, biofertiliser, and also environmental remediation and monitoring applications.

Algae can also produce other valuable substances in either fresh or saltwater cultures, including proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and pigments. Most commercially produced algae today is marketed as health food, although integrated industrial algal production offers multiple economic development opportunities. Algae technology can provide the biological platform to integrate carbon sequestration, bioenergy, biomass production, and water nutrient removal technologies.

While algal biotechnology is still in its infancy, this emerging industry has the potential to revolutionise nutrition, agriculture, aquaculture, pharmaceutical and biofuel biotechnology. However, there is much research and development investment required before algae production systems to reliably and efficiently realise such benefits. This discussion paper explores algal biological capacity, in addition to technological developments in relation to species and strain selection, production, harvesting and extraction, refining, and commercial consumption.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
Publisher: Division of Research and Development, and the School of Engineering and Energy, Murdoch University
Notes: Discussion paper
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