SABANA project for the creation of a leading worldwide microalgae biotechnology centre

The SABANA project waslaunched last December for the implementation in Almería of an excellence center for research and development of microalgae biotechnology. The objective of this project is to facilitate collaboration between companies and research centers for the development of commercial processes based on microalgae, especially focusing to obtain compounds of interest for agriculture and aquaculture integrating it with waste treatment. The project aims to produce sustainable and profitable biofertilizers and biopesticides from microalgae produced in sea water or even in wastewater. Likewise, it is intended to develop processes to obtain feed for aquaculture to increase its sustainability and profitability.

This project is funded by the European Union under the “Blue Growth” program, focused on the sustainable use of marine resources, and it is one of two European projects approved in this call. The project has a budget of 10.6 M € and it is led by the University of Almería, but also collaborating relevant companies as FCC Aqualia and Biorizon Biotech of Spain, Agricola ItalianaAlimentaria and the Italian Consortium of Biogas of Italy, and GEAWESTFALIA from Germany. In addition, other prestigious research groups such as the University of Milan in Italy, the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, the KarlsruherInstitutFuerTechnologie in Germany, the SzechenyiIstvan University in Hungary and the MikrobiologickyUstav in the Czech Republic also participate in this project.

This is a four-year project on which a demonstration plant of developed technologies of 5 ha of surfacewill be installed, with capacity to produce up to 300 tonnes per year of microalgae and by-products. This demonstration plant will allow obtaining commercial products that will be evaluated in different markets, thus it is expected to be a development platform for microalgae biotechnology in Spain and Europe. In addition to the companies and universities mentioned, the project has the support of the FundacionCajamar which also perform works in this field during the last years, as well as various institutions such as the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training Fishery, Food and Production Fisheries (IFAPA), the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of the Regional Government of Andalusia, as well as the Subdelegation of the Government and the City of Almeria.

The research and development centerto be installed is expected to promote and facilitate the collaboration and development of skills of both companies and research institution, in addition to students. It aims to be an open center for participation in new projects, business initiatives, training courses, etc. For this objective a Training Center for professionals and students will be created, as well as courses of different levels will be performed, in addition to an online access service to the information generated during the project. Experts from all over the world will collaborate and work day by day in fields as diverse as biology, engineering, computer science, agriculture, aquaculture as well as entrepreneurs.

The objective of the SABANA project is to be able to obtain new biofertilizers and biopesticides,as alternative to the chemicals currently used in agriculture, which will allow not only better fruits and vegetables to be obtained but also be more sustainable and safe for the consumer and the environment. Also, it is intended to develop processes for the production of microalgae that can later be incorporated into aquaculture feedstuffs to reduce the use of fishmeal and fish oils that are increasingly scarce and unsafe due to the exhaustion of fisheries resources. Microalgae biotechnology can thus contribute to improving the quality of foods and, above all, to increasing its sustainability, and thus to safeguarding our resources and taking care of our environment.