European seaweed research project GENIALG, which stands for GENetic diversity exploitation for Innovative macro-ALGal biorefinery, has announced results after a 54-month study of how to boost the European Blue Economy by designing high-yielding seaweed cultivation systems.
The project brought together 19 companies from six countries and was coordinated by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. Other partners consisted of large-scale integrated European biorefineries and experts in seaweed cultivation, genetics, and metabolomics. According to the researchers, results from this project have laid the foundations to strengthen the seaweed cultivation and biorefining industry in Europe, promoting sustainable seaweed farming for future generations.
The overall objective of the GENIALG project was to increase the production and sustainable exploitation of two high biomass yielding species of European seaweed: the brown alga Saccharina latissima (also known as sugar kelp) and the green alga Ulva spp. (often called sea lettuce).
Funded in large part by the EU Horizon 2020 program, GENIALG has developed innovative solutions to help production of seaweed biomass in Europe become more economically and environmentally sustainable. These solutions include how to reduce costs, scale-up production and improve the quality and refinement of seaweed biomass into multiple value-added products.
Other significant contributions GENIALG has made since its inception in 2017 have been:
- Demonstrating the techno-economic feasibility of cultivating land-based sea lettuce and of cultivating sugar kelp in the open sea
- Applying the first genome-wide approaches and a customized phenotyping platform for seaweed strain selection and improved understanding of seaweed genetics and physiological traits
- Creating new approaches for valorizing new and existing products from seaweed compounds that have pharmaceutical applications. These include fucoxanthin from Saccharina and various fractions from Ulva which are used in animal and plant care and are expected to have applications in human healthcare in the future.
- Developing novel marine enzymes and enzyme cocktails for seaweed fractionation.
- Improving access to reliable information about seaweed farming best practices
New technologies, methods and tools
The GENIALG website (genialgproject.eu) showcases the project’s results and publications, such as GENIALG E-Learning Course on Sustainable Seaweed Farming Practices, GENIALG Manual on Best Practices for Seaweed Farming, and the GENIALG Biorefinery Manual. Publications are freely available to students, current practitioners within the seaweed industry or anyone interested in entering the seaweed industry.
“By combining a trans-sector partnership with an integrated and sustainable approach, GENIALG aimed to meet the market needs in the fields of health, nutrition, cosmetics and agriculture,” said GENIALG Project Coordinator, Philippe Potin. “New technologies, methods and tools (genomics and post-genomics) have been developed for seeding, harvesting, rearing, cultivating and storing seaweed as well as for pre-processing, fractionation, extraction and purification of the biomolecules within the seaweeds.”
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