|2 February 2016|

Oban company Xanthella seeking to make algae the industry of the future for rural Scotland.

The Atlantic coast of Scotland has some of the best renewable energy generation potential in Europe. New uses for electricity in areas that are remote from grid connections would enable an increase in renewable energy use and industry – creating income generation and employment. A proposed £2.2 million project is intending to answer this challenge using a novel resource for Scotland: microalgae.

Xanthella Ltd is an Argyll-based company with its headquarters at the European Marine Science Park near Oban. The company designs and sells equipment for algal biomanufacturing and research. Xanthella is one of a number of companies working at the forefront of marine natural product research and development, based at the European Marine Science Park, a development by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to facilitate the growth of the business cluster in an established location for marine science research. With the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) adjacent, the site also provides businesses with immediate access to the marine environment and a range of technical and scientific support services.

With a number of active collaborations with leading Scottish universities including Glasgow, Strathclyde, Robert Gordon and St Andrews, Xanthella is working on projects ranging from advanced photonics to developing new ways of using waste products to form valuable feedstocks for growing algae. Xanthella is also leading the Algae Solutions For A Local Energy Economy (ASLEE) project with its chief executive, Dr Douglas McKenzie, acting as the project’s coordinator.

ASLEE is an ambitious and innovative partnership project aiming to boost the economy in rural Scotland by using renewable power to produce high value microalgae. Algae are already used in Scotland’s aquaculture industries and can also be used for a wide range of products such as health foods, toxin standards, pigments, and biofuels. Access to low cost renewable electricity would give Scottish production of microalgae a sustainable competitive advantage in the world market and reduce the need for imported algae. This ground-breaking two-year R&D project will determine the economic and technical feasibility of using renewable energy to reduce the costs of manufacturing algae and also study the likely wider economic and social impact that successful implementation of this technology could have in rural Scotland. This is the first study of its kind in the world, giving Scotland a valuable technical lead in this field. The project involves the construction of a 48,000l capacity of internally-lit photobioreactors, making it the largest facility of its type in the UK and providing a valuable facility for investigating the potential of novel algal products at industrial scales.