Wageningen working on EU PUFAChain microalgae project

[Netherlands] Wageningen University & Research is working together with other research institutes and companies on the EU project PUFAChain, to devolop a robust scientific and technological basis for the industrial development of high-value products from microalgae.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in our diets in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and for normal vision and brain functions, note researchers at Wageningen University: we eat (oily) fish products or use pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements based on fish oil for this purpose. But, they point out, fish cannot produce omega-3 by itself, but obtain them from algae.

PUFAs are poly unsaturated fatty acids or omega-3 fatty acids. These PUFAs, the researchers explain, in particular DHA and EPA, play an important role in our health. EPA and DHA are found in fish and shellfish. High levels can be found in fatty fish, such as anchovy, mackerel, herring and salmon. However fish cannot make their own DHA and EPA, they obtain them from algae. Wageningen University & Research is working together with other research institutes and companies on the EU project PUFAChain, to devolop a robust scientific and technological basis for the industrial development of high-value products from microalgae.

DHA/EPA health claim approvals, improvement in standard of living and increasing health awareness have made the DHA/EPA world market grow significantly, the researchers note. The same applies to the global fish production and consumption. At present, more than half of the fish consumption is from farmed fish instead of captured, but the fish feed for several farmed fish species also consists of fish meal and oil.

To meet this growing demand and to prevent overfishing and to avoid dependence on fluctuating catches by El Niño, other sources of omega-3 than fish or fish oil should be sought, the researchers believe. In baby food, for example, DHA from algae is used. Not only for the DHA/EPA consumer market, but also for the fish feed market, for example for salmon farming, algae could be an interesting option say the team. Reduction of production costs for DHA/EPA rich algae oil is needed to be able to compete with fish oil in these price-sensitive markets.

PUFAChain is developing a robust scientific and technological basis for the industrial development of high-value products from microalgae. The main targeted application is the use of high purified omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) for nutrition and pharmaceutical products. Science and technologies are integrated in a consortium of 6 companies and 3 research institutes. Wageningen University & Research is performing the socio-economic and SWOT analysis. The PURAChain is funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program.

 

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