Agriculture intensive areas across North West Europe (NWE) generate huge quantities of nutrient-rich digestate after anaerobic digestion (AD) of food and farm wastes. This digestate, composed of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace metal elements, used to be applied on land as a fertilizer. However, this practice is restricted in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones across NWE region as the excess nutrients could potentially cause eutrophication.
The application of microalgal technology (ALG) could offer a promising solution to overcome this issue. Microalgae actively uptake the excess nutrients and convert them into intracellular protein. This combination of microalgal and anaerobic digestion technologies form the central theme of the ALG-AD project. ALG-AD is a Interreg NWE project in which a new technology is being developed across three investment sites in United Kingdom, France and Belgium to recycle excess waste nutrients for production of sustainable algae based animal feed and value-added products.
ALG-AD team of University of Gent (UGent) and INNOLAB are responsible for the construction, maintenance and technical support of investment site 3 in Belgium. The investment site is based at INNOLAB in Oostkamp, 35 km west of Gent. A pilot-scale digestate pre-treatment system, 4000-litre microalgal photobioreactor and biomass harvesting system will be installed as a micro-factory within a greenhouse. During the third week of June, the first phase of installation was finished with the assembling of an 800-litre GemTube™ MK2-750 photobioreactor with active support of ALG-AD UGent team and PhD students of Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Applied Ecochemistry (ECOCHEM) of UGent. Water testing was successfully performed and the preliminary growth trials will be conducted in July.