Commercial scale algae cultivation

Our facility in Carboneras in the province of Almeira, southeast Spain is the commercial implementation of a ten-year research project that was initially sponsored by Endesa S.A. Our plant is being built at industrial scale with approx. 10,000sqm of raceway ponds plus tubular photobioreactors. The design is a factor 10 scaling up of similar facilities in the region.

The harvesting step involves dewatering from algae being 2% of the culture medium in the 13 raceways to 97% dry powder, achieved by a cascade of ultrafiltration, centrifuge and spray drying. The capital investment in the facility to date has been more than €3m.

Uniquely, we have the right to use easily accessible fresh seawater to cultivate saltwater strains, further underpinning the ESG credentials of the facility. Year-round cultivation, sunlight and seawater in Southern Europe provide Firglas distinct competitive cost and operational advantages. Our cultivation method is resource efficient and binds carbon dioxide, thereby ecologically advantageous and promotes sustainability which has appeal to the end markets.


Downstream extraction of active compounds

Extraction of active compounds has been central to algae from the outset for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications which is where the industry has come from. Separating out the fractions, constituent parts to isolate the active compounds to be concentrated and purified. The quality and purity of the extracts is crucial to the value and price.

The company has been pursuing and developing extraction opportunities and methods to address the downstream markets. To reinforce the company’s credentials, we are developing sustainable extraction methods.


Sustainability at the heart

The cultivation method, photosynthesis under sunlight in seawater, is highly resource efficient and cost effective, compared with other algae cultivation methods. It is inherently sustainable which is important to many customers.

However to drive adoption, the cost of production and sale price must be competitive with existing supply chains, and the best driver of adoption will be competitive or even disruptive economics. When we can offer a disruptive product in terms of price and quality, the footprint and sustainability factors will be compelling supporting arguments.


Regulations

The company’s cultivation method is a regulated activity both in terms of operations and environmental performance. These permits have been secured by the company. In addition, the company is also pursuing voluntary product accreditation, such as GMP/good manufacturing practice, to highlight sustainable sourcing and demonstrate quality assurance, which also creates product differentiation.


Partners and Collaborators

We seek to build mutually-beneficial collaborations with technology and commercial partners in the value chain to promote natural microalgal products. We are working closely with several universities, institutions, and partners:

Endesa, Spain’s no.2 energy company, part of ENEL https://www.endesa.com/en
Biorizon Biotech, joint venture partner https://www.biorizon.es/en/
Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Almeria, UAL https://www.ual.es/en?idioma=en_GB
CDTI, Department of Innovation at the Ministry of Industry in Spain https://www.cdti.es/index.asp?idioma=2
Jarquil, main contractor for construction  https://jarquil.es/en/industrial-manufacturing/
ITC, research centre in Canaries https://www.itccanarias.org/web/en/