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Green Gold: Nannochloropsis Algae and Its Economic Potential

   June 28, 2024

Nannochloropsis is a genus of green microalgae, a nonmotile sphere shaped with an average diameter of 2–5 microns. It is found in both fresh and marine environments. There is a great interest in Nannochloropsis production, primarily because it contains a considerable amount of lipids and protein, making it a very interesting nutritional profile. Nannochloropsis cell mass comprises 50–55% crude protein. It has been used in the production of aquafeed, nutraceuticals, and feed supplements for several decades.

Nannochloropsis sp. is extensively used in aquaculture. Besides containing Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), an important ω-3 fatty acid, Nannochloropsis sp. is also a rich source of pigments such as β-carotene, violaxanthin, and zeaxanthin. Nannochloropsis is used in aquaculture as a feed, as it provides polyunsaturated fatty acids, essential vitamins, and amino acids, along with energy. In Nannochloropsis, the omega-3 fatty acid EPA is produced in high concentrations. Nannochloropsis has high protein (43-50%) and lipid (16.6%) levels with a high content of EPA (16% of total lipids), which makes it a nutritious whole-cell ingredient for aquafeeds.

Consumers are increasingly making wiser food choices based on the health benefits provided, such as enhancing bodily functions or reducing the risk for certain diseases. Therefore, functional foods have gained significant importance. Functional food products contain added, technologically developed ingredients with specific health benefits. Nowadays, proteins extracted from microalgae are gaining popularity due to their high bioavailability and sustainability, and extraordinary nutritional, bioactive, and functional properties. Nannochloropsis is also gaining worldwide acceptance as a novel food ingredient as it is a good source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, pigments, and vitamins. Moreover, Nannochloropsis contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), mainly EPA, along with polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamins. Thus, it can be used as a nutritional supplement for individuals needing PUFAs and EPA intake. Its introduction into the human diet is eco-sustainable and can replace fishery products.

Growing Demand from the Biodiesel Industry Expected to Generate Growth Opportunities for Market Players

Climate change, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and the depletion of conventional fuel reserves are becoming major global concerns. These factors have resulted in the growing demand for biofuels, as biofuels are secure, sustainable, and clean sources of energy.

The increasing pressure to lower carbon emissions and find an alternative energy source to conventional fuels has made biodiesel more appealing in recent years. Biodiesel is considered the future fuel of the transportation industry, which is contributing to its market growth worldwide. Biodiesel fuel is similar to diesel; however, it is an eco-friendly and clean-burning liquid fuel and does not produce harmful emissions during combustion, thus making it an environment-friendly alternative to other conventional fuels.

Biofuel from microalgae is a suitable alternative to conventional fuels such as petrol and diesel. Moreover, logistics and aviation are the major contributors to GHG and CO2 emissions. The CEO of Compañía Española de Petróleos, S.A.U. (Cepsa) (Spain) has predicted that advanced biofuels will play a central role in the decarbonization of heavy transport and aviation. While the electrification of transport is a likely scenario for passenger cars, heavy transport, shipping, and aviation are expected to have a much higher dependency on liquid fuels in the coming decades. Microalga species such as Nannochloropsis oculata are a promising source of biodiesel due to their ease of growth, high oil content (28.7% of dry weight), and ability to produce cellular lipid, which is further converted to biodiesel through a transesterification reaction. Due to its high oil content and ability to produce cellular lipids, there has been an increased demand for Nannochloropsis microalgae from the biodiesel industry.

Meticulous Research®, in its latest publication on the Nannochloropsis Market, states that the Nannochloropsis market is expected to reach $14.0 million by 2031 at a CAGR of 8.5% during the forecast period of 2024 to 2031. In terms of volume, this market is projected to reach 122 tons by 2031, at a CAGR of 9.4% from 2024 to 2031.

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