Speaking with us at the recent Vitafoods show in Geneva, Switzerland, Efrat Kat said Algatech is currently working on five different microalgae, with development for each at different stages. While the details are obviously closely guarded, Kat did state that the company is targeting a launch later this year with more to follow next year and beyond.
The total number of algal species remains unknown, but estimates put this in the hundreds of thousands: For example, The Algal Collection of the US National Herbarium is comprised of more than 320,000 specimens. However, fewer than 12 have actually been developed for commercial use, said Kat.
This opens up possibilities for a range of ingredients, and not just carotenoids, said Kat, but also essential fatty acids, protein, and more, with applications across multiple industries, including nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, feed, food and beverage, and cosmetics.
“This industry is growing and it’s evolving. You cannot find many companies producing algae at a commercial scale.”
“Our strategy is to develop a wide range of microalgae products,” said Kat. “We believe we are the experts in microalgae: Our most important value is that we are the best quality algae on the market. We invest in the right equipment, and we’re always going to use state-of-the-art technology.”
The company is the only pure algae player participating in a pan-EU sustainable food project involving 50 partners from 13 countries that will see the partners invest close to €1.2bn over seven years. Other industry partners include Puratos, Roquette, Döhler, DSM, PepsiCo and Nestlé’s research arm Nestec.
Created in 2008, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is an EU initiative designed to spur innovation and entrepreneurship. Within the seven-year timeframe, EIT Food aims to develop 290 new or improved products, services and processes. Algatech will work within EIT Food to develop new food sources from microalgae.
“Protein deficiency will be a big problem in the future,” said Kat.
The company made its name with high quality astaxanthin derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae grown in a labyrinthine network of glass tubes near Eilat in Southern Israel. The tubes enable the company to precisely control the process, exclude contaminants and produce high purity astaxanthin in an ultra-efficient way.
The algae - which starts out green - is fed CO2 and nutrients, but turns red (which means it's producing astaxanthin) as a stress response to the sunshine. It's then harvested and used primarily in the dietary supplements market.
The company recently obtained organic certification from the National Organic Program (NOP) for its Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae powder and astaxanthin oleoresin, a move that “fits with the philosophy of the company”, said Kat.