Wageningen Researchers Producing Hot Springs Microalgae

Wageningen University Netherlands

Wageningen University researchers are producing a microalga species that grows in volcanic hot springs.

Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have successfully developed a method to produce a promising microalga species that grows in an unlikely environment: the world’s volcanic hot springs. 

Galdieria sulphuraria (G. sulphuraria) is an extremophile microalga species with blue pigment that can live in extreme conditions and could represent a resilient source of protein for the food and feed of the future. “This is the first time the nutritional profile of this species has been accurately quantified and understood,” says Pedro Moñino Fernández, PhD student and lead researcher on the EU-funded ProFuture project. “We are now closer to real applications of this interesting and unexploited microalga that could have a significant impact on how the world feeds itself.”

The research results represent a key milestone for ProFuture, a project that scales up microalgae production as a sustainable, protein-rich food and feed ingredient. As an extremophile species Galdieria sulphuraria can live in extreme environments that are typically not conducive to life.

“This is the first time the nutritional profile of this species has been accurately quantified and understood.”

Although the species has been studied for decades due to its resilience and adaptability, it had not been examined as a possible food source or produced at scale yet. ProFuture studied a strain growing in the hot springs in the Naples region of Italy and found the following results. 

G. sulphuraria biomass was found to have protein content in the range of 62-65%, which is relatively high compared to other algal and fungal microorganisms with protein contents ranging from 30-70%. In addition, G. sulphuraria proteins have a good amino acid profile, including all essential amino acids. The proteins are especially rich in two amino acids rarely found in such high levels in non-animal-based proteins: cystine and methionine.

A better source of blue pigment

“Microalgae offer some key advantages compared to other microorganisms currently being studied as potential food sources. They are a natural source of essential fatty acids, and species such as G. sulphuraria are among the few naturally occurring sources of blue pigment,” says Iago Dominguez Teles, the project manager at Wageningen University.

G. sulphuraria contains a high concentration of a natural blue pigment commonly used as a colorant in cosmetics and food. This pigment has also been found to have antioxidant properties, as well as potential as a therapeutic agent. Compared to extractions of the already commercially produced microalgae strain spirulina, the blue pigment extracted from G. sulphuraria demonstrates greater stability, increasing its potential in industrial applications. In addition, a mixotrophic production process can increase concentration of the blue pigment.

Next steps on the way to use G. sulphuraria in our foods 

To effectively exploit the promising results of G. sulphuraria, additional research is needed to assess its digestibility and to identify any additional processing methods that may be required for commercial applications. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently assessing the safety of Galdieria sulphuraria as a novel food for the general population and as a food supplement for adults. In addition, Blue Galdieria extract is being assessed as a food additive.

In the News…
EABA Announces Upcoming Webinar and Workshop Schedule

The European Algae Biomass Association (EABE) has announced their upcoming series of Webinars and Workshops.

April 12: 60-minute Webinar on Biorefinery and Applications for Rugulopteryx

April 20: 60-minute Webinar on Pavlova Opportunities for the Nutraceutical Market

April 26: 60-minute Webinar on The Role of Lab-scale Production

May 8: Live Workshop (Geneva): Industrial Technologies for Production of Natural Astaxanthin

May 9-11: YAS 2023 (Faro) Young Engineers Symposium

May 23: 60-minute Webinar on Biostimulants and Biofertilizers from Algae for Agriculture

May 31: Webinar on EU Programs for the Algae Biomass Sector

June 8: Webinar on LCA Methodologies for Algae Production

June 28: 60-minute Webinar on The Beta-carotene from Microalgae is Back

June 28: 60-minute Webinar on The Potential of Nostoc for Specialty Foods


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