Interview President EABA, Vítor Verdelho

[EU] Vítor is a 48 years old Portuguese manager, living in Porto and with a academic background in Physics and experience of managing biotech companies in the last 30 years. He combines a teaching and coaching experience in the University with the hands-on experience of business management in several companies. His main achievement in the algae industry was to start Necton as a research project in the University in March 1989 and develop the company with other co-founders and partners.

Necton is a production company that has a unique record of continuous outdoor production using several of photobioreactors since September 1997 with sales of more than 12 different microalgae species.

A4F is the latest microalgae bioengineering successful company that was able to design, build and operate the largest outdoor photobioreactor facility with more than 1.300.000 litres o culture volume, located in Portugal. Along the years he promoted 55 research projects in the algae field and at present ins involved in 8 FP7 Projects, coordinating one of them the BIOFAT. Since April 2014 is the President of the European Algae Biomass Association.

What are your goals for your term as president of EABA?

The main goals are to promote the development of the Algae Biomass sector (industry and academia) both Macro and Microalgae in Europe with a global worldwide vision. This development has to be aligned with the interest of the Association members and the emerging trends in the sector. EABA will be increasingly recognised as the organisation representing the sector both by the European Commission and the relevant stakeholders. It is also an important goal to contribute for the growth of the sector in value for Europe (currently more than 1.5 b€/year) and the employment status.

What can we expect to see from the EABA in the next years?

We can expect that EABA will grow (at least double) the number of relevant members in the next 2 years. The Association will consolidate its Annual conference as the reference Algae Conference in Europe and will offer a set of specialised workshops that will become the meeting points to discuss specific algae related issues. At the same time the EABA technical working groups will provide the key references in Europe for relevant topics as Novel Foods and GMO organisms related with algae. The flow of information within the persons working in the sector will be a relevant concern and it is expected a closer link between researchers in the academia and industries.

What are the most exciting advances occurring in the algae industry right now?

The present moment is in my opinion the most most interesting moment in history of algae sector since the report about the first microalgae in 1703 Tabellaria. That is because the algae sector reached a critical point where algae are becoming a almost-commodity and have the potential to became a new resource of food, feed and chemicals. It is now becoming established the possibility to grow both macro and microalgae in different production platforms and nutrition modes. As soybean crops GMO algae are being produced in fermentors. The number of production companies (macro and micxroalgae) is now more than 1.000 world wide and there are many products in different markets.

What do you think is needed most at this point in time to develop the potential of algae in Agri- and Aquaculture?

The most important a clear regulatory framework that makes it possible to bring to the market a wide range of species and related products and extracts. Research must be more focused and provide information about the safety contains and the potential for exploitation. The turning point in the sector is being and will be driven by the interest of large companies that are being involved in the Algae Biomass sector such as BASF, DSM, Lonza and Roquette (for microalgae) and Danisco, Cargill and FMC (for Macroalgae) and relevant suppliers for both as Linde, Air Liquide, Alfa-Laval, Westfalia, GEA, Merck and Siemens.


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