On March 16, Dr Graeme Barnett, founding Managing Director of Qponics Limited, presented at a BTP Talks luncheon, hosted by the BTP Satellite Rotary Club of Carindale, on his business’s latest innovation in the farming of local algae.
Qponics intends to construct a new plant in Brisbane to organically produce algae for extraction of vegetarian omega-3 oil for human consumption. The company’s first operational plant will produce high-quality EPA-rich omega-3 oil from a strain of Nannochloropsis algae. The initial annual production target is 24,000 kg of omega-3, scaling up to 240,000 kg p.a. from 2018-19. Current wholesale prices for algal EPA algal oil are attractive, with US$150 per kg reported early in 2015.
The global wholesale market for EPA/DHA omega-3 sourced from marine animals and algae was US$2.5 billion in 2014 and is projected to exceed US$7 billion by 2020. Rising sea temperatures are adversely affecting global stocks of marine animals and it is unlikely that omega-3 oil from this source can continue to supply a market which is doubling every 3-4 years. The algae industry is well-placed to increase the sustainable production of omega-3 oil to meet market demand into the future. As a vegetarian source of omega-3 oil the product appeals to the untapped market of more than 500 million vegetarian consumers in the Asia/Pacific region alone.
Dr Barnett explained that this development in the omega-3 industry is a direct result of emerging dietary changes. “Medical and nutritional experts acknowledge that in Western countries like Australia, more than seventy percent of the population is deficient in dietary EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids” said Dr. Barnett. “This deficiency is causally associated with a growing list of medical conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Consumer recognition that these conditions can be avoided or modulated through increased consumption of EPA and DHA fatty acids, is driving the global omega-3 market.”
A significant by-product of omega-3 oil production from algae is protein-rich algal biomass. Dr Barnett noted, “Our scaled-up plant aims to produce up to 560,000 kg p.a. of remnant algal biomass from 2018, which also includes residual omega-3. This has value as protein-rich vegetarian livestock fodder, and there are additional omega-3 benefits, for example, chickens fed this product will accumulate omega-3 in their egg yolks.”
Qponics has a strong relationship with the University of Queensland, to access collections of algal strains and state-of-the-art algae farming expertise. “We are very pleased to be working closely with Professor Peer Schenk and his team at UQ, as they have been testing and optimising algal strains for several years and their research Algae Energy Farm at Pinjarra Hills has successfully demonstrated that the algae omega-3 industry has an excellent future in Brisbane,” said Dr Barnett.
Qponics Limited is an agricultural company operating in the food and beverage sector based in Brisbane Technology Park. To find out more, visit: www.qponics.com.