French supplier Roquette has advanced its commitment to the chlorella and algae extract market by inaugurating a 4-5000 tonne a year chlorella facility at its HQ near Lille in northern France, as chlorella continues to move from the shadow of spirulina.
The €10m+ facility uses close-vat fermentation (heterotrophy) to produce the flours and powders that are typically 45% protein , 20% fat , 20% carbohydrate , 5% fibre, and 10% vitamins and minerals.
Wellbeing and sustainable messaging is at its core, as well as the quality derived from the close-vat system, although it continues to operate a much smaller, sun-fed, closed-pipe system (autotrophy) at a German facility.
“The German site will continue as there are things that can be done with autotrophy that we can’t do here – not all microalgae can grow in the dark,” Sergio Neves, global director Microalgae Business Line, told us at the inauguration yesterday.
“We will continue to experiment with 6-7 different algae there.”
Roquette, which began life more than 80 years ago as a specialist in starch extraction from corn, has broadened its raw materials to include wheat, potatoes and peas, and moved into areas like polyols and proteins.
With algae and chlorella, it is aiming at baked goods, dairy, high-fat culinary foods and supplements with demographics like the elderly and sports people.
“Thanks to this new investment in microalgae, Roquette has become a major player in this emerging sector,” said Neves.
Others operating in the area include Allma, Arora, Solazyme and DSM-Martek.
The Japanese and US supplements markets stand out as the biggest users of a chlorella supply estimated for the moment at about 5000 tonnes annually.
About 90% of that comes from open pond-sourced material in China and Asia, a system where quality control is more challenging.
Neves said European players and algae farmers had met to discuss quality and broader market issues and will do so again in Ghent, Belgium, later in the year, where the possibility of a trade group will be raised.
Roquette is marketing three ‘algility’ chlorella versions: An algal flour that can reduce fat and manage lipid profiles; an algal protein combined with fibres and unsaturated lipids; and a powder aimed at food supplements and aquaculture.