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Astaxantin production from fixed cultivation of Haematococcus pluvialis

Grant number: 17/00903-1
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Innovative Research in Small Business - PIPE
Duration: February 01, 2018 - February 28, 2019
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Microbiology - Applied Microbiology
Principal Investigator:Moira Nunes
Grantee:Moira Nunes
Host Company:Algae Biotecnologia Ltda
City: São Paulo
Associated researchers: Luiz Felipe Arjonilla de Mattos
Associated scholarship(s):18/03796-4 - Production of astaxanthin from immobilized cultive of Haematococcus pluvialis, BP.TT
18/04207-2 - Astaxantin production from fixed cultivation of Haematococcus pluvialis, BP.PIPE


The production of carotenoid astaxanthin from microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis has become one of the main branches of microalgae biotechnology; the commercial interest arises from its applications in animal nutrition, especially in aquaculture, and its powerful antioxidant activity. The worldwide market for astaxanthin is growing rapidly, but is still largely supplied by the synthetic version of the pigment, which is restricted to animal consumption. Natural astaxanthin is already marketed for human consumption, both in the form of H. pluvialis biomass and in pure form, however, its market penetration is still restricted by the high cultivation costs of H. pluvialis. It is necessary to develop new farming strategies, which are simpler and cheaper; in this perspective, immobilized cultivation appears as an alternative for the production of microalgal biomass as it reduces water and energy consumption, in addition to simplifying technical aspects. Among the reactors of this type, the PSBRs (Porous Substate Bioreactor) stand out, allowing a complete separation of biomass and culture medium, guaranteeing a biomass harvest already concentrated by a simple scraping process. Although there is growing interest in these reactors, their pilot-scale operation is still limited. Therefore, the main objective of this project is to enable the immobilized cultivation of H. pluvialis in PSBR for the production of astaxanthin. As specific objectives, we have: (I) To carry out the cultivation of H. pluvialis in PSBRs of size 10m2; (II) Inducing the production of astaxanthin at different luminous intensities; (III) Carry out an economic evaluation of the system in the different configurations to verify the viability of the process. For this, it is intended to construct PSBRs in a modular way and following two different configurations: with greater spacing between the reactors and reactors closer to each other. Such spacing will control the intensity of sunlight incident on the surface of the reactor through shading. H. pluvialis will be inoculated into the system in both light conditions, and will be cultivated for 5 days with complete medium, followed by 5 days with nitrogen and phosphorus restriction, to induce the stress associated with the accumulation of astaxanthin. Daily samples will be collected by simple scraping and then lyophilized and weighed to determine the dry weight; and then will be referred for quantification by HPLC. The economic analysis will consider the investment in material and labor, energy and area used, in relation to the productivity of the pigment. Using this technically simplified process for the cultivation of H. pluvialis, with the exclusive use of natural lighting and reduction of water and energy consumption, it is expected to obtain natural astaxanthin of high quality and at a more competitive price compared to synthetic. In addition, as a result of this project, we intend to build and operate the first PSBR pilot plant in Brazil. This technology, coupled with the environmental conditions of Brazil, opens up many possibilities related to microalgae biotechnology. (AU)

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