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- About Alltech
Algae are the fastest growing plant organisms in nature and have the ability to convert large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen.
Before algae evolved, the earth’s atmosphere had no oxygen but instead consisted of carbon dioxide and methane. Photosynthetic algae converted carbon dioxide into biomass and released oxygen into the atmosphere. Today, algae still produce 70% of the earth’s oxygen.
Algae also form the base of the aquatic food chain. They produce carbohydrates, oils, protein, vitamins and organic minerals. Since they are aquatic, algae grow much faster than land plants as they do not have to expend energy growing roots and cellulose support structures like trunks, leaves and stems. Without the need for support structures, algae can triple or quadruple their biomass every day. This rapid growth means that one acre of algae can produce the same amount of protein in a year as 21 acres of soybeans or 49 acres of corn.
Algae are extremely diverse. Many species are single-celled microorganisms but some are multi-celled, like the 200-foot long giant kelp. Most species are photosynthetic like plants, others consume organic carbon compounds (sugars and starches). They are also chemically diverse with some strains high in protein, oil and/or carbohydrates.
Algae’s biodiversity means that they have many potential uses. Algae are used in food, animal feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels. They can also be used for carbon sequestration and bioremediation of waste and waste water.
Alltech Algae in Winchester, Kentucky, is one of the largest algae production facilities in the world. It houses a variety of sizes and types of fermentors for growing heterotrophic algae. Algae production starts with inoculation of a flask in the lab. A dense culture of algae cells is grown in the flask and then transferred to a seed fermentor. A dense cell culture is grown again and then transferred to a larger seed fermentor.
This process continues until the cell culture is large enough to inoculate one of the eight-story tall production fermentation tanks. These tanks are fully automated and can be monitored and run from a central control room. When the algae are ready to be harvested, they are transferred to the centrifuges to remove most of the growth solution and then to the spray dryers where they are turned into powder.
Alltech Algae is an impressive production facility but its value as a research facility may be even more important. It is equipped with a fully functional pilot plant, a scaled-down replica of its large production system. This system allows our research and quality teams to experiment with new strains and production methods before rolling them out for commercial production.