Diego Méndez

The valorization of by-products and the Circular economy

 

The excessive proliferation of algae at certain times of the year, the final accumulation of which is limited to certain zones, is dependent on environmental and climatic factor. These are factors that can be affected both by natural causes and human activity (for example, the eutrophication of waters). This is not regarded as a controllable phenomenon, nonetheless, it is fundamental that attempts be made to reduce the effect that it has on certain activities with a relevant socio-economic value, such as the cultivation of bivalve molluscs (clams, common cockles and razor shells).

The accumulation of drift algae in an intertidal zone

Although considered part of cultivation park and installation maintenance, residue management, which is understood as the removal of algae (principally Ulva green algae) from this environment, is considered as an additional problem in shellfishing activity. This is due to the additional expenses involved, whether for the groups of shellfishers (guilds) or for the public entities that are responsible for this process. It is also worth noting that the incorrect management of these residues can transform a financial cost into an environmental one.

 

The possibility of processing these residues by using technology that can be implemented close to where the algaes are extracted, would not only facilitate their management in terms of logistics but also in economic terms. This is due to the fact that by preserving these residues in a way that increases their applicability, it will be possible for any costs incurred in said process to be converted into profits through their commercialisation. This idea of enhancing the value of a marine substrate would certainly have a positive social impact in geographic regions that are strongly linked to the sea and its resources given the importance of these products in these areas.

 

For several decades now, due to the extensive range of uses that these products offer from a commercial point of view, the idea of extracting compounds from macroalgae has been widely developed. One of the main ways in which the value of marine macroalgae has been enhanced, is through the extraction and use of the different algae components as technological additives in alimentary or cosmetic products. As a result, the alginates and carrageenans, which are obtained from brown and red algae, respectively, are now widely available on the market, however, similar components derived from green macroalgae do not yet exist on the market.

 

That is why ANFACO is looking to promote the development of R+D+I projects that will make it possible for the problems associated with drift algae to be localised and quantified, and, likewise, we are also coming up with alternative technological processes for the exploitation of this product. With this in mind, we decided to develop the ALEHOOP project, which was accepted in the H2020-BBI-JTI-2019 call for proposals. This project looks at ways of developing new protein sources from underused materials, including drift algae.

 

The aim of this project is to contribute the knowledge and tools necessary to enable these algae to be exploited as a resource by any entities that consider it as a potential business venture. It also looks at ways in which these marine resources can be used in a more efficient way, as well as considering improvements that can be introduced to improve the way that this resource is currently being managed. This will be achieved by adjusting to the legislation and promoting the use of improved techniques for removing algae from the marine environment, in the understanding that this will not only lead to a greater efficiency, but that it will also improve the condition in which the algae are extracted from this environment.

 

Likewise, we feel that by creating a business line associated with these algae it will be possible to promote the operating protocols for all of the stakeholders involved in this process, ensuring not only a more efficient use of the resources but also that the rest of the organisms that are living in this ecosystem are properly taken care of. Examples of this could include the implementation of offshore collection systems that are less harmful to the rest of the living marine organisms than on-shore collection processes, or the implementation of models that would make it possible to anticipate the proliferation of algae, therefore making it easier to organise the necessary logistics for their removal, before they end up in shellfish banks.

For more information on the ALEHOOP project, check out: http://bit.ly/blogcytma_alehoop