‘If we can control the light, we can control the DNA…’ Provectus Algae unlocks algae’s potential as an industrial platform for high-value ingredients

“We’ve got potentially about 200,000 algae species that we know of on planet Earth – we don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface yet – and out of those, only about 20,000 have been characterized, and from these, only about 15 have been grown commercially at any scale,” ProvectusAlgae​ founder and CEO Nusqe Spanton told FoodNavigator-USA.  

“And the reason is because algae is extremely particular about the light which it absorbs to grow ​[most algae species are photosynthetic, in that they require light – along with carbon dioxide and water – to produce organic compounds].

“When it grows really fast, it tends to block out its own light, and the specificity of the light that’s required to grow all of these algae species is vastly different. Think about the environments in which algae grows… on the surface of the ocean, at 500 meters deep. And if you think about the way light is utilized in these environments, it’s very different, so the vast majority of algae species we know of cannot handle natural sunlight to grow.

But more importantly, 99% of all algae species are extremely fragile, and be​cause of that, you can’t put many species in traditional production systems because you can destroy the algae cells, which has limited our ability to use algae​ [as a microbial host] for synthetic biology purposes, because it’s so hard to grow on an industrial scale without killing it.”

‘We’ve got a fundamentally different industrial process for growing algae’

“But these are two key problems we solved early on,” ​claimed Spanton, who is based in Queensland, Australia, but is targeting the US, Europe, and Asia. “We’ve got a fundamentally different industrial process for growing algae and this enables us to look at vastly different product lines and species to push through into industrial scale.

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