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Hawai'i company gets boost towards lead in algae-based feed production

A Hawaii bio-fuel company will receive more than $5.5 million to produce affordable animal feed from marine algae in order to aid the large-scale production of feedstocks for biofuels, aquaculture and other animal feeds

May 5, 2011

Hawai'i company gets boost towards lead in algae-based feed production

A Hawaii bio-fuel company will receive more than $5.5 million to produce affordable animal feed from marine algae in order to aid the large-scale production of feedstocks for biofuels, aquaculture and other animal feeds, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka and Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono announced.

Cellana LLC, a subsidiary of HR BioPetroleum, will receive $5,521,173 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Cellana has also raised $1,643,661 in non-federal funds for their project titled, “Developing a New Generation of Animal Feed Protein Supplements.”
The project began May 1 and runs through April 30, 2014.

“In Hawaii there is tremendous potential to research, develop and implement new and forms of biofuel and sustainable food supplies.  By developing a cheaper form of animal feed from marine algae we allow our livestock and dairy industry to remain competitive by reducing the amount of revenue they direct to feeding their animals,” said Senator Inouye. “I would like to laud Cellana’s efforts to move Hawaii away from the use of imported fossil fuels while developing innovative new products from one of our most readily available resources.”
"With great potential to be a sustainable source for biofuel production, this technology is well-suited to our state's location and expertise.  I am pleased that this funding will support work on animal feed as another product of rapidly growing algae, and I look forward to the new developments and applications that will result,” said Senator Akaka.

“Hawaii becoming more self-sufficient in energy and food production is a major goal of mine,” said Congresswoman Hirono. “Cellana has won a grant that will address one of the most limiting factors affecting local chicken, pig, dairy, and aquaculture production—the availability of affordable feed. The cost of importing feed has led to the closure of a number of poultry and dairy operations in Hawaii. Cellana is a forward-looking company focused on both Hawaii’s energy and food security needs. I commend and congratulate them.”
Cellana’s goal is the large-scale production of feedstocks for biofuels, aquaculture and other animal feeds, and other valuable products from marine microalgae, while simultaneously converting CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, emitted by stationary sources of fossil fuel combustion, such as power plants, oil & gas refineries, cement factories, and ethanol plants.
Cellana LLC is positioned to be the first algae company to ramp up to commercial deployment for a biofuel application in Hawaii. This commercial algae facility would also represent one of the first of its kind in the United States.

"Cellana's patented process for growing algae at industrial scale is showing promising results. With thousands of different strains already evaluated, we are growing algae strains capable of producing up to 60 tons of biomass containing 3,800 gallons of algal oil per acre per year," explained Martin Sabarsky, Cellana's chief executive officer.

"Cellana is now producing experimental quantities of up to a ton per month of Hawaiian strains of algae at our demonstration facility in Kona. We are testing these strains for numerous high-value applications, including fuel, animal feed, cosmetics, nutritional oils and industrial chemicals."

Cellana is working with the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, the Department of Energy, as well as undisclosed potential corporate partners to evaluate significant quantities of biomass produced at its six-acre demonstration facility. Cellana has also contracted with universities in the U.S. and Norway to test proteins from top candidate strains to replace fishmeal in aquaculture feed with excellent results to date.
In addition, Sabarsky notes that in August 2010 Cellana added yet another U.S. patent to its growing portfolio of owned or in-licensed intellectual property, Patent No. 7,770,322, "Continuous-batch hybrid process for production of oil and other useful products from photosynthetic microbes." This patent is exclusively licensed to Cellana.

"The process protected by this patent is at the heart of Cellana's past and future success, as it provides a means of avoiding contamination while minimizing the high costs associated with enclosed culture systems and allows relatively low-cost open ponds to be used," Sabarsky explained. "Over $100 million has been invested to date in our Kona demonstration facility, our algae strains and the processes we use to grow, harvest and separate our algae biomass, which puts Cellana on a very short list of leading companies in the emerging algae-based biofuels and bioproducts industry."
For the past several years, Cellana LLC's parent company, Cellana, Inc., formerly known as HR BioPetroleum (HRBP), founded in Hawaii in 2004, has been evaluating sites in Hawaii to deploy a commercial-scale algae facility. In 2008, HRBP, Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., Hawaiian Electric Company and Maui Electric Company, subsidiaries of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. signed memoranda of understanding to pursue joint development of a commercial algae facility on land adjacent to Maui Electric's Ma'alaea power plant. The proposed facility would use the carbon dioxide produced by the power plant to feed the algae, both reducing carbon emissions and the need for fossil fuel. In effect, the carbon dioxide produced from burning fuel for electricity would be consumed by oil-rich algae which, after harvest, could provide a biocrude or biodiesel replacement for the petroleum diesel used to power the plant as well as other valuable products.
"With world oil prices rising, and Hawaii's already high energy costs, Cellana is looking toward providing a commercially viable supply of renewable biofuel," noted Sabarsky. "It is a pioneering effort with tremendous potential, and we are now looking at 2014 for the construction and operation of this transformational facility on Maui."

"After initial field trials, we are also enthusiastic about the technical and economic viability of algal protein from our leading strains of algae for use as a fishmeal supplement to provide a valuable co-product," said Barry Raleigh, chairman of Cellana, Inc.'s board of directors and company co-founder.

"Fishmeal protein, which is an increasingly unsustainable source of aquaculture feed, has reached its peak in global production and has become very expensive. Algae protein as a fishmeal supplement looks as if it may provide an answer for the demands of the aquaculture industry and an excellent revenue stream for Cellana."
In initial trials using two candidate strains of Cellana's algae, fishmeal protein was replaced, in part, by algal protein. Farmed salmon, carp and shrimp consumed the replacement feed and then were compared with those fed the standard diet. Weight gain, feed conversion and protein efficiency were either unaffected or significantly improved by the use of the algal protein, when compared to the traditional fishmeal protein.

Salmon were unaffected when replacing five to 10 percent of the fishmeal with algal protein. In carp and shrimp, 25 to 40 percent replacement showed improvements in feed conversion efficiency, weight gain and an improved coloration in the harvested fish. Sabarsky said larger-scale trials are now in process. 

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