Researchers at SARDI have discovered and isolated a super strain of a native microalgae species after six years of bioprospecting. This discovery could form the basis of a local biofuels industry.
The research is part of a $4.2 million microalgae biorefinery project funded by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology. The project aims to develop a proof-of-concept facility for microalgal biodiesel feedstock and value-added products that will serve as a sustainable South Australian biofuels industry.
Dr. Sasi Nayar, leader of the SARDI Algal Production Group, said they have isolated 14 native strains with potential. The flagship strain is a green algae or Nannochloropsis with unusually high lipid and protein content.
These features imply the microalgae have a tremendous commercial potential with applications across a full range of oil uses. These can range from biofuels to high value co-products such as animal and human food supplements, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals (e.g., skin creams and anti-ageing creams).
Nayar reports that their research team already knows the optimal growing conditions for this algae, and they are now ready to scale up to commercial levels of production. The research partners are currently looking for investors to help take the study to commercial pilot scale, before transitioning to full commercial scale.
Microalgae production will not compete with traditional agricultural lands and resources since it is a non-feedstock. It gives clean, renewable fuel that does not generate carbon dioxide; hence, it can significantly reduce greenhouse effect and alleviate global warming. Furthermore, it absorbs or recycles carbon as it grows.
SARDI researchers headed by Nayar with Kriston Bott and Michelle Brayley presented their study at the 8th Asia-Pacific Conference ‘Algae for the Future’ hosted by Flinders University in Adelaide.