Green Chemistry, bio-fuels, health, power: microalgae are considered to be extremely promising, but still need to successfully grow them and exploit them, sector in which a SMEs in Libourne (Gironde), Fermentalg, has taken a step ahead. From the outside, premises seem modest, nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac in the centre of Libourne. Inside, several laboratories where busily technicians in white coats, behind microscopes or fermenters. The object of their attention: hundreds of microalgae, invisible to the naked eye (1 to 10 microns), but that there is growing economic interest. Because these microorganisms for the origin of plant and animal life, present in marine and terrestrial environment, produce high yielding, not only convertible oils into fuels, but also a wide variety of biochemical substances-rich molecules. When he created his company in 2009, Pierre Calleja, biologist of 52 years, already rolled her bump in marine aquaculture, expanding in the 1980s. With one nagging question: how to produce these famous microalgae at the base of the food chain of fish?Twenty – five years later and still intact passion, the contractor is pleased to have begun to find answers. Launched in 2009 with five employees, Fermentalg has developed, within five years, several methods to isolate strains of algae to grow, and especially the molecules of interest such as hoops 3, dyes, antioxidants, hydrocarbons recover,. The secret of Fermentalg: mixotrophy, growth under intermittent light technology that enables both the animal part than the vegetable part of these beings hybrids that are the microalgae. A technique which has the effect of increasing productivity and allows to extract the maximum amount of molecules. -’ Mixotrophy’ – we are world leader in this technology of mixotrophy, says Pierre Calleja, whose the SMEs, with several patents, has to be introduced on the stock exchange market of innovative companies. I opened a new horizon and we’re sitting on huge territories. Microalgae are new spaces where each plant its flag, enthuses the contractor. Because this potentially huge market, competition sharpens. Microalgae are considered to be a credible alternative to many resources today in tension, particularly protein derived from fisheries or oil, and even occupation of soils. The United States, historically the most optimistic about the potential of this new energy source, increasing investments. Microalgae have an amazing future, confirms Jean-Paul Cadoret, Director of a research laboratory on microalgae at Ifremer, which advises Fermentalg, but also other actors in the sector in France, estimated at a dozen companies. Each actor seeks axes to differentiate themselves, explains the scientist, stressing, at the same time promising approach of Fermentalg, the advances of the rocket (7. 800 employees worldwide) Green Chemistry Group, based in the North of the France and produces flour of microalgae. With 1. 500 strains listed, the Gironde SMEs, which should reach 100 employees within a few months, plans to produce 5. 000 tonnes of biomass of microalgae per year from 2015 onwards. Next challenge: establish industrial partnerships for the operation of the molecules (proteins and lipids for human and animal nutrition, biopolymers and biolubricants for green chemistry, active molecules for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical, etc.), prior to marketing by the company itself. Long viewed with disbelief by bankers, Pierre Calleja, who succeeded in 2012 to roll a series vehicle with a partially obtained fuel from microalgae, lifted EUR 40 million during the entry into Fellowship of his company in April. This admirer of Apple founder Steve Jobs, can also count on the support of the State, 25% shareholder of Fermentalg, via Ademe and the public investment bank (BPI). And wish that microalgae are better known to the general public so that we stop to take to a madman. .
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