- Animal Nutrition & Health
- Future of Farming
- Feeding the World
- About Alltech
Alltech Algae in Winchester, Kentucky, opened in early 2011 as one of the world’s largest commercial algae production sites. It houses a variety of sizes and types of fermenters for growing heterotrophic algae for application in aquaculture, pet and livestock nutrition. It is equipped with a fully functional pilot plant—a scaled-down replica of its large production system—that enables our research and applications teams to experiment with new strains and production methods before rolling them out for commercial production.
Once a buzzword in the biofuel industry, algae are gaining attention for their application to the feed and food industries as a highly sustainable source of protein and DHA omega-3. As such, Alltech is continuing to expand its algal DHA plant, one of only two plants commercially producing high-DHA heterotrophic microalgae. The facility, which is capable of producing approximately 15,000 tons of algae per year, has already been updated since its opening in early 2011.
Most commercial production of microalgae is done autotrophically. After significant research, however, Alltech chose a different path, producing algae through the heterotrophic method. This method uses a closed and controlled system, such as a stainless steel fermenter, to grow the algae. The nature of the system reduces contamination and also allows researchers to more closely control the process, maximizing nutrient content. The result is a more pure, consistent and nutritious DHA omega-3 source.
Algae are the fastest growing plant organisms in nature and are extremely diverse. Algae form the base of the aquatic food chain. They can naturally produce carbohydrates, oils, protein, vitamins and organic minerals that feed crustaceans and up the food chain to fish. With overfishing and potential contamination issues with fish, algae provide a unique opportunity to replace nutrients formerly supplied by fish, fish oil and fish meal.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid naturally found in some species of algae and plankton and often in the food chain in fatty fish used for fish oil. An increasing body of research has demonstrated DHA’s importance as an essential nutrient for health at all stages of both human and animal life.
In humans, DHA omega-3 is essential for brain and eye development. Plentiful levels of dietary DHA are also linked to improved cognitive function and learning ability in children, including benefits for children with ADHD, as well as reduced risk of coronary heart disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. When used in animal diets, DHA omega-3 from algae can increase immunity, fertility and overall health, as well as naturally enrich the meat, milk or eggs. Producers are able to market these enriched products as value-added functional foods, and the consumer ultimately benefits from the added nutrient content.
Traditionally, DHA omega-3 has been supplied through fish oil. The availability and quality of this material for the feed industry have declined significantly. DHA omega-3 produced through algae is a viable alternative to fish oil that can be quickly produced commercially with limited land use and no detectable “fishy” taste in the functional foods sold to consumers. These functional foods are bridging the gap between food and health, creating a new kind of preventative medicine. In particular, Alltech is examining algae applications within aquaculture, specifically the replacement of fish oil in aquaculture feeding programs and the enrichment of fillets with high DHA omega-3.