Anti-stress action and increased N-efficiency
De verdere markt en technische verkenning van het algenpreparaat Isoagens, uit zoutwater microalg Isochrysis galbana, richt zich op vermarkting opties en kwaliteitsmanagement in de keten. Er wordt met veel partijen gesproken uit de wereld van de gewasbescherming, & biofertilisers opkweek & vermeerdering, maar ook partijen actief in de postharvest fase. Toedienen van Isoagens in de vorm van een spray of druppelirrigatie blijkt geen aantrekkelijke optie, vandaar dat we Isoagens willen incorporeren in een drager waaruit het middel vrijkomt, bv. steeketiketten, plantengeleidingsmateriaal, potten, trays, substraat etc. Het is intussen gelukt om papier/karton te verrijken met Isoagens met behoud van functionaliteit. Technologisch is het ook gelukt om Isoagens te “embedden” in matrix van biodegradable biopolymer; In welke mate de functionaliteit van Isoagens nog aanwezig is in dit materiaal wordt momenteel getest.

Current agricultural practices contribute a substantial share of GHG emissions in particular nitrous oxides from soils and through application of fertilizers. The changing climate is putting pressure on agricultural productivity due to changes in temperature, crop water use and water availability and quality and also causes resource problems incl. water scarcity, pollution and soil degradation. The IPCC recommends various strategies, but few practices are actually implemented. Much more impactful and innovative measures are required as proposed in this Pathfinder project.

The development of biofertilizers is an active field, with well-known examples such as the use of Nitrogen- fixing bacteria and antagonistic bacteria to promote crop growth. The use of microalgae based biofertilizers implies a unique, additional tool in this area with substantial economic potential. The invention underlying this Pathfinder is to use biofertilizers based on microalgae extracts as an innovative, high impact tool for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) aimed at both climate mitigation and adaptation.

Microalgae are a promising, sustainable feedstock for food and non-food products. Microalgae have high productivity and can be grown on land unsuitable for agriculture, using seawater (instead of valuable fresh water resources) and COfrom flue gas. Recent R&D results obtained in the framework of the EC FP7 project MIRACLES (2013-2017)[1] have shown that extracts from microalgae lsochrysis galbanaand Phaeodactylum tricornutum are highly effective plant growth promoters with distinct functionalities and economic value. These microalgae strains deliver promising extracts for inducible stress resistance in explants and juvenile plants/seedlings. Well documented stress tolerances for low temperature, low light intensity and drought have been recorded. Large scale use of these extracts in agriculture and horticulture will contribute to climate mitigation via a large reduction of fertilizer use and concomitant energy use, COand nitrous oxide emissions. Simultaneously the use of algae based biofertilizers will contribute to adaptation to climate change via much increased resilience of the agricultural system via improved soil structure and biodiversity of the soil ecosystem with positive effects on plant productivity (incl. reduced risks for productivity losses) , enhanced efficiency of nutrients and water use and improvement of plant productivity.

Algae extracts also increase the nitrogen-efficiency of juvenile plants/seedlings by both an enhanced affi nity and processing capacity of the uptake system, and an increased processing capacity of nitrate reductase, the first enzyme in the assimilation of absorbed nitrate into N-organic compounds. In addition, algae have positive effects on soil structure and soil health, nutrient and mineral status, while some strains also exhibit fungicidal effects. Market options are considered to be in agricultural and horticultural business as a spray, slow release source, embedded in bioplastics, coated on seeds etc.

Objectives of the project
The overarching objective of this Pathfinder project is to enable large scale use of microalgae based biofertilizers by performance of a feasibility assessment and partner search to establish a sustainable value chain for large scale production and use of microalgae based biofertilizers. The detailed objectives are

      1. Market research to identify relevant business areas and interested partners for establishment of the sustainable
          value-chain incl. partners in production, processing/formulation, registration and authorization for large scale
          production and practical application of algae based biofertilizers;

      2. Assess feasibility of upscaling production of relevant microalgae strains lsochrysis and Phaeodactylum, volume
         and economics (in consultation with algae producers). Identification of strategies to improve productivity, achieve
         optimum raw material stability (limit batch to batch variation) functionality and quality, reduction of eco-footprint
         and costs of production. Impact assessment on climate mitigation.

      3. Development of protocols for production, processing, quality assurance of algae extracts in all steps of the
          production chain, storage requirements and formulation for large scale applications.

      4. The overall project outcome will be the establishment of a production/value chain incl. relevant partners for
         demonstration and commercialization of microalgae based biofertilizers as a tool for CSA.

The project partners will develop a demonstration and commercialization strategy. The partners are well positioned to achieve these aims thanks to in-depth expertise and networks in microalgae production incl. strain and process optimization (WU, Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences) sustainable business development in agriculture and horticulture (CropEye) and biorefinery to enhance added value of biomass streams incl. algae (WFBR,  Wageningen Food & Biobased Research) .

The project Work plan consists of 5 Work packages:

  • WP1 Establishment of value chain, market research, registration & authorization
  • WP2 Feasibility of upscaling production of microalgae strains, volume and economics
  • Development of protocols for production, processing, quality assurance of microalgae extracts in all steps of the production chain, storage requirements and formulation.
  • WP4 Integration, prioritization and commercial follow up
  • WP5 Project management

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[1]This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 613588. Website: www.miraclesproject