EMA Conference Announcement

The Manchester EMA conference is a 1-day event on microalgae-related research and commercialisation.

The conference take place at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, Manchester M1 7DN, UK on May 18th, and is part of EnhanceMicroAlgae (www.enhancemicroalgae.eu/enhancemicroalgae-project) an INTERREG EU project, which aims to reinforce the microalgae commercial sector through the improvement of production methods, the creation of joint business strategies and the access to technical and scientific knowledge.

We are inviting participation from all interested parties in microalgae-related activities.

Registration is free and there is also the possibility to present a poster, so please register your interest to participate and to present a poster here!

Conference Organisers: Prof. Constantinos Theodoropoulos, Dr. Jon Pittman, University of Manchester.


EMA Conference Program

May 18th – Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, Manchester M1 7DN, UK

9:00 – 9:30 Registration – Coffee

9:30 – 9:40 Opening address – Prof. Constantinos Theodoropoulos

9:40 – 10:00 ANFACO EMA Project Coordinator

Title: Aims and scope of the EnhanceMicroAlgae Project

Session 1

10:00 – 10:30 Prof. Rob Field, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology

Title: Enzymes, sugars and natural products in Euglena and Prymnesium

10:30 – 11:00 Prof. Prof. Saul Purton, University College London

Title: Synthetic biology in the algal chloroplast and its application to aquaculture

11:00 – 11:30 Dr. Jon Pittman, University of Manchester

Title: Exploring new methods for biomass and metabolite manipulation in microalgae

11:30 – 12:00 Dr. Yuansheng Hu, Atlantic Technological University Sligo

Title: Cultivation and potential application of auto-floating microalgae for wastewater bioremediation and biorefinery

12:00 – 13:00 Lunch (Poster session, TBD)

Session 2

13:00 – 13:30 Dr. Marco Lizzul, Varicon Aqua

Title: Construction of a 35 m3 Pilot Phyco-Flow Photobioreactor

13:30 – 14:00 Dr. Matthew Davey, SAMS/CCAP

Title: Exploring and exploiting algal diversity for biotechnology

14:00 – 14:30 Dr. Donal McGee, AlgaeCytes Ltd.

Title: Towards a Sustainable Microalgal Omega-3 EPA Oil Biorefinery Process.

14:30 – 15:00 Dr. Elisabeth Bermejo-Padilla, AstaReal AB

Title: Astaxanthin: Nature’s most powerful antioxidant

15:00 – 15:30 Coffee (Posters session, TBD)

Session 3

15:30 – 16:00 Dr. Jagroop Pandhal, University of Sheffield

Title: Co-cultures of algae and bacteria

16:00 – 16:30 Dr. Gonzalo Figueroa-Torres, University of Strathclyde and ScotBio

Title: Implementation of Process Analytical Technology (PAT) and predictive modelling to intensify production of Spirulina at ScotBio.

16:30 – 17:00 Dr. Alla Sikina, Swansea University

Title: TBD


EMA Conference Abstract Booklet

EnhanceMicroalgaeProject Introduction

Constantinos Theodoropoulos, University of Manchester, ANFACO

Abstract: Microalgae production for high added value compounds is identified as a business sector with high growth potential in the coming decades, especially in the Atlantic Area. Barriers to improve an industrial use are dominated by a lack of technology expertise. This project aims to facilitate information transfer between a panel of experts and companies specializing in different areas (nutrients, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, feed, energy, etc) thus encouraging business cooperation among the different countries. The main objective is to contribute to the competitiveness of microalgal-based industries in the Atlantic Area. The project aims to reinforce the microalgae commercial sector through the improvement of production methods, the creation of joint business strategies and the access to technical and scientific knowledge.


Enzymes, sugars an natural products in Euglena and Prymnesium

Rob Field, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester

Abstract: The algae are an enormous, diverse collection of organisms, ranging from single celled, micron diameter microorganisms to seaweeds that are many metres in length. While there is a general appreciation that macroalgae are sources of polysaccharides – alginates and fucoidans, for instance – the glycoscience of the algae in general remains largely unexplored. This presentation will highlight aspects of the carbohydrate and natural products capability of the freshwater microalgae Euglena gracilis, which have been enabled by transcriptomics and follow up biochemical studies. Further studies on the glycoscience of the harmful-algal-bloom causing Prymnesium parvum and its’ lytic virus will also be presented.


Synthetic biology in the algal chloroplast and its application to aquaculture

Saul Purton, University College London

Abstract: Edible microalgae such as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii offer significant potential as cell factories for the low-cost production of recombinant therapeutics for the aquaculture industry. Light-driven production of the algae using simple photobioreactors, and formulation of the dried biomass into the aquaculture feed avoids costly fermentation, lengthy downstream processing and the necessity for a cold-chain. Furthermore, oral delivery allows the low-tech, mass treatment of fish or shellfish even at the juvenile stage ensuring that vaccines, anti-microbials, growth hormones, dietary enzymes, etc. can be delivered when most effective. The algal chloroplast is an attractive target for genetic engineering given that it possesses a minimal, prokaryotic-derived genetic system that is well suited to manipulation using synthetic biology approaches. We have developed a suite of molecular tools and a simple pipeline that are easily adopted by other research groups, and which allow the design and construction within approximately six weeks of an engineered strain stably expressing one or more transgenes. The strains are ‘marker-free’ with the transgenes ‘bio-contained’ through the reassignment of a stop codon as a sense codon. Furthermore, we have engineered our recipient strain to be able to grow using phosphite as the sole source of phosphorus. This allows cultivation in non-sterile media without the problem of microbial contamination. In the talk I will briefly introduce our technology and illustrate examples of its application in aquaculture.


Exploring new methods for biomass and metabolite manipulation in microalgae

Jon Pittman, University of Manchester

Abstract: Algal biomass is a viable source of chemicals and metabolites for various energy, nutritional, medicinal and agricultural uses. While stresses have commonly been used to induce metabolite accumulation in microalgae in attempts to enhance high-value product yields, this is often very detrimental to growth. Therefore understanding how to modify metabolism without deleterious consequences is highly beneficial. We demonstrate that very low-doses of ionizing radiation induces a non-toxic response in microalgae to promote metabolic activation. We identified specific X-ray exposure parameters that give reproducible metabolic responses in green microalgae caused by transcriptional changes, particularly to lipid metabolism genes. The outcome was an increased lipid yield in stationary phase cultures by 25% in just 24 hours, without any negative effects on cell viability or biomass.


Cultivation and potential application of auto-floating microalgae for wastewater bioremediation and biorefinery

Yuansheng Hu, Atlantic Technological University Sligo, Ireland

Abstract: Integrating microalgal cultivation with wastewater treatment is a promising option for sustainable resource recovery and eco-friendly wastewater bioremediation. However, harvesting and culture control are major hurdles hindering its application. This study provided an effective solution to these challenges by selective enrichment of auto-floating microalgae in mixed cultures. This was achieved by repeatedly retaining the floe layer and discharging the subnatant in a semi-batch photo-bioreactor. The enriched auto-floating microalgae were dominated by Tribonema sp., which maintained its dominance (84.8 ± 9.2 %) over 180 days under non-sterile conditions. Effective autoflotation (>90 %) was achieved at a separation time of 30 min without coagulation, which enabled cost-effective microalgae harvesting. The autoflotation mechanism was in situ gas flotation, induced by photosynthetic micro‑oxygen bubbles. Cell surface hydrophobicity played a pivotal role in effective bubble-cell adhesion. This autoflotation mechanism inherently led to excellent dewaterability (SRF = 2.7 × 1011 m/kg). The enriched auto-floating microalgae demonstrated excellent nutrient removal efficiency (N and P > 98 %), and high biodiesel production potential (TFA content: 27–29 %; biodiesel productivity: 48–76 mg/L/d). It also had a high content (29–31 %) of β-(1–3/1–6)-glucans, which are well-known biological response modifiers and have wide applications in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, food, feed, and cosmetics sectors. Overall, the present work demonstrates that selective enrichment of auto-floating microalgae offers great opportunities for a microalgae-based biorefinery in sustainable wastewater bioremediation.


Construction of a 35 m3 Pilot Phyco-Flow Photobioreactor

Marco Lizzul A. M. ,  Searle J. Zrig H.*, Varicon Aqua Solutions, Unit 12 Ball Mill Top Business Park, Hallow, Worcester, WR2 6PD, United Kingdom.

Abstract: Varicon Aqua is a global leader in the supply of photobioreactor equipment, consumables and services into the algal sector. The company participated in the competitive tender for EU Grant No. EUROPEAID/140111/IH/SUP/TR to supply a pilot photobioreactor system for the Bogazici University project. The project was based upon a sustainable algal biorefinery concept, contained within a greenhouse and powered by renewable energy. The Bogazici facility aims to produce Spirulina and other algal biomass with a view towards use within the food sector. The Varicon Aqua team undertook the necessary design work to deliver a turnkey production chain consisting of Phyco-Bubbles and larger scale Phyco-Flow photobioreactors, with a total production volume of 35,000 L. The systems took 4 weeks to install, and were made from a total of 9 km of glass, it was commissioned in December 2020. The Phyco-Flow system is based on a serpentine configuration and is capable of producing between 0.25-0.5 g L-1 d-1 of Spirulina biomass under the conditions in Turkey. The system displays a range of improvements when compared to our previous BioFence system. Features include, lower shear mixing, full automation, sensors for pH, temperature and optical density. Controllable LEDs and an automated in-line cleaning system. The reactor consumes circa 250 W/m3 and is illuminated to 170 µ mol m-2 s-1. Overall costs to deliver a system of this size are in the region of €12/L. Studies indicate the production cost of microalgae in closed tubular photobioreactors range from €50-150/kg. To summarise, the Phyco-Flow is a scalable industrial photobioreactor solution for the production of microalgae for a range of research and commercial purposes.


Exploring and exploiting algal diversity for biotechnology

Matthew Davey, SAMS/CCAP

Abstract: Algae are now used or being developed for many commercial and research purposes. However, the species used is limited to a few key strains. I will present data on our current research outputs and facilities use for the screening and scale up of algae. Specifically, our research on using algae for the printing sector, the space biotechnology sector and using extremophilic algae for novel applications will be presented. The facilities at CCAP will be showcased including their new CCAP-ARIES algal scale -up and analysis facility. https://www.ccap.ac.uk/index.php/aries/


Towards a Sustainable Microalgal Omega-3 EPA Oil Biorefinery Process.

Donal Mc Gee, AlgaeCytes Ltd.

Abstract: AlgaeCytes Ltd is a UK SME that has developed an innovative and sustainable process for the biorefinery of high-value metabolites from microalgae. We have operated that plant continuously for the last 5+ years at our R&D labs and existing microalgae pilot plant at Discovery Park, in Kent. AlgaeCytes plans to build a new, larger commercial production facility in Dessau, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, in 2024. The Dessau Plant is already designed and permitted and the building site is contracted, with product sales are planned to start in early 2025.


The company will sell its high-value bioactive ingredients B2B for the health & wellness markets. AlgaeCytes primary product are the AVEPA Daily Omega-3 Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) produced from its proprietary microalgal species. The company has developed sustainable and circular economy business model that harnesses the full potential of the algae by valorising all of the biomass into value-added co-products. This algal biorefinery opens commercial opportunities for a range of high-value products and new market opportunities in the nutraceutical, cosmeceutical and biostimulant markets.


Dr Mc Gee will give an overview of the company’s history, the omega-3 markets and new opportunities from the biorefinery of microalgae and AlgaeCytes on-going commercial targets.


Astaxanthin: Nature’s most powerful antioxidant

Elisabeth Bermejo Padilla, AstaReal AB

Abstract: Astaxanthin is a xanthophyll carotenoid valuable in the fields of nutrition and health especially for its antioxidant properties. The most abundant source of astaxanthin in nature is the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis, which will accumulate this pigment in lipid vesicles during periods of nutrient deficiency and environmental stress. AstaReal is a leading producer of high-grade natural astaxanthin using specially designed photobioreactors to cultivate the microalgae H. pluviailis.


The cultivation process starts in the laboratory, under sterile conditions to provide a pure inoculum that will be used for the scaling. The culture is enriched with essential nutrients and light that allows for optimal growth and proliferation (green phase). When the culture reaches its optimal density in the green phase, it is transferred to our unique stainless steel photobioreactors where the production of astaxanthin (red phase) is initiated. After the algae have reached maturity, they are harvested, crushed, and dried. The final biomass is a deep-red powder of high purity, containing a high concentration of astaxanthin. The biomass can be further refined to produce a range of bulk products that are suitable for a variety of formats within the food, food supplement, cosmetic and feed industry.


Designing consortia of algae and bacteria for industrial exploitation

Jagroop Pandhal, University of Sheffield

Abstract: We use a variety of tools to characterise microalgae, microalgae-bacteria co-cultures, and complex microbial communities, all for the purpose of biotechnology. This includes quantitative proteomics, inverse metabolic engineering and adaptive evolution. However, in this talk, I will focus on how we are developing tools to design optimal algae-bacteria consortia for specific applications with our industry partners. I will split this into the relatively sensible top-down approaches we have applied, through to the more ambitious (perhaps foolish) bottom-up methods.


Implementation of Process Analytical Technology (PAT) and predictive modelling to intensify production of Spirulina at ScotBio.

Gonzalo M. Figueroa-Torres, University of Strathclyde, ScotBio, Shairps Business Park, Livingston, UK

Abstract: ScotBio is a biotechnology company that cultivates Spirulina biomass for the production and supply of natural ingredients and colorants, e.g. blue-coloured phycocyanin pigment and more. The cultivation of Spirulina takes place in bespoke photobioreactors (PBRs) following a patented indoor production process with artificial lighting. This study, a KTP collaboration with the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), aims to implement Process Analytical Technologies (PATs) and predictive modelling tools to further intensify the speed and output of Spirulina production. A diverse range of commercially available sensors have been tested and procured, enabling efficient real-time monitoring and control of critical process parameters (CPPs) in ScotBio’s PBRs. In addition, a light power-dependent model is being developed alongside generated data to simulate biomass growth, nutrient uptake, and phycocyanin production dynamics.


Specific characteristics of algal species and their effective growth optimisation in mass scale cultivation for high level waste nutrients uptake

Alla Silkina , Swansea University

Abstract: To ensure consistent product development from algal biomass the algal cultivation still need to improve in order to become reliable for SME and other businesses of algal products developers and producers. In the Enhance microalgae Interreg Atlantic area project during the first phase the algal growth modelling platform of Decision support tool (DST) was established for the prediction of algal biomass production in different environment conditions and latitudes. In the second stage, these modelling outputs were tested with real data from algal growth trials. By comparable results this modeling system was validated and approved. These results were obtained by growth trials of Nannochloropsis marine microalgal species. The growth and biomass production were assessed for 30 days semi-continued harvesting trails for control using a standard media and experimental with a waste based nutrients, providing high level of Ammonium. Data sets were close to the modelling prediction and very consistent. We can recommend this model and DST for wide use for algal producers and other academic and business stakeholders.


EMA Conference Presentations