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How to Manufacture Astaxanthin

Known for its superb antioxidant properties and multiple health benefits, astaxanthin is attracting a lot of interest as a nutritional ingredient in the natural products industry.

Although astaxanthin is found in marine animals, the best natural source for supplements is the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae due to its high astaxanthin content. This post offers a behind-the-scenes look at how astaxanthin is sourced from the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae at the Algalif™ facility in Iceland.

Growing algae isn’t easy

Harvesting astaxanthin from microalgae at a commercial scale is a highly technical and skilled process. In nature, Haematococcus pluvialis synthetises astaxanthin as a defense mechanism against adverse environmental conditions. Consequently, conditions for algal growth are not conducive for astaxanthin accumulation, and vice-versa. The production of Haematococcus pluvialis biomass and astaxanthin are therefore affected by many physical, chemical, and biological factors that are constantly in flux. Algalif uses a proprietary, three-phase process to achieve optimal production of astaxanthin. The three main stages of production are the Green Phase, Starvation Phase, and Red Phase.

Green Phase

In the Green Phase, the algae cells are cultivated under optimal growth conditions using pure Icelandic water and high-quality nutrients to make the algal cells grow and multiply.

The process starts in the clean room, where pure algae colonies are cultivated in petri dishes under controlled conditions by a team of dedicated cultivation experts. The cultures are then transferred to sterile Erlenmeyer flasks and then onto larger cultivation units.

When high cell density is reached in Algalif’s photobioreactors (PBRs), 80-90 percent of the culture is transferred to the next phase and the remaining culture is recycled.

Starvation Phase

In the Starvation Phase, the algae culture is gradually exposed to stress conditions to induce rapid astaxanthin synthesis. When a high amount of astaxanthin is accumulated, the culture is transferred.

Red Phase

At the end of the Red Phase, the algal biomass is separated from the medium and dehydrated. The algal cells are cracked to produce a high-quality astaxanthin biomass. Astaxanthin is recovered using solvent-free supercritical CO2 extraction, stabilised and standardised to produce a range of astaxanthin products.

State-of-the-Art Cultivation Technologies

At Algalif, algae cultures are grown indoors using fully-enclosed, modular PBR systems. Simply put, PBRs are glass tubes oriented horizontally or vertically to create an artificial environment where all cultivation parameters are carefully controlled. PBRs protect the culture from external contamination and enable optimal growth of the microalgae, ensuring high yields of pure astaxanthin and a steady production output.

As the two primary inputs for indoor microalgae cultivation, the importance of pure water and clean energy cannot be overstated.

Any trace amount of heavy metals or other contaminants present in the water will accumulate and magnify in microalgae cultures because of their high biosorption capabilities. Algalif uses Icelandic water, which is extremely clean, low in minerals, and almost sterile from its source.

Indoor cultivation uses artificial lightning, which can cause environmental burdens if manufacturers rely on fossil fuels for electricity. The Algalif facility is 100 percent powered by renewable geothermal energy, ensuring a continuous supply of microalgae ingredients that are manufactured in an environmentally-friendly way.

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