The Bioautomated Algae Plantation
Food Marketing & Technology - India|November 2021
Amid extensive media coverage in 2018, one of the largest and first closed, year-round microalgae cultivation facilities in the world was officially opened in Bruck an der Leitha in Lower Austria. The photobioreactor system developed by Austrian-based ecoduna, which consists of 43,000 6-meter high glass tubes, is designed to produce roughly 100 tons of ultrapure algae powder annually. With its high concentrations of high grade vegan omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, natural color substances and micronutrients, plus essential amino acids, microalgae is considered a highly-sustainable and resource-efficient raw material of the future, particularly for the food industry. One of the key issues during research and development was the creation of an industrial-scale production infrastructure, which required an automated system for controlling the biological growth process. Over the course of the project, Endress+Hauser proved to be a highly-engaged, persistent partner. At that time still a startup, ecoduna was supported from the very beginning by the measurement technology specialist with both high-quality sensor technology and comprehensive expertise in the area of pH value and optical density (OD) measurements, two relevant pieces of the patented green technology puzzle.

Franz Emminger and Mag. Martin Mohr, ecoduna’s two founders, originally wanted to produce biofuels from microalgae. The underlying idea was, and still is, to provide the green single-cell organisms constant and optimal photosynthesis conditions (light, CO2 and nutrients) and thus be able to continuously and systematically cultivate and produce large quantities of high-quality biomass. After tinkering with this project for a number of years, in 2010 they molded their idea into a business model and ventured step- by-step into independence with the support of private investors.

The Austrian company has since steadily enhanced and fine-tuned the production processes and safeguarded the technology through global patents. As early as 2012, the company put the demonstration and research facility in Bruck an der Leitha into operation, enabled intensive process tests and created a basis for the technical and commercial maturity of the system ecoduna was acquired at the end of 2020 by a private, Netherlands-based company active in the cultivation of organic plants and renamed Jongerius ecoduna GmbH. The initial plan is to concentrate on the European sales market.

PRODUCING LIKE NATURE

“We produce our algae the way nature does, just not in a horizontal flow, but vertically,” explains Lukas Neuwirth, quality manager at Jongerius ecoduna.

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