Legislative Council: Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Microalgae Biosequestration

In reply to the Hon. T.A. FRANKS ().9 March 2023).

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I am advised:

That microalgae are farmed in Whyalla, South Australia. One company is currently licensed to farm microalgae in South Australia. BASF Australia Limited, a category A landbased aquaculture licence located just north of Whyalla, has been licensed to farm the microalgae Dunaliella salina since 2005.

BASF is the world's largest producer of microalgal betacarotene, grown and harvested at Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia, and Whyalla in South Australia.

The carotenoids are derived from the microalgae, Dunaliella salina, that is grown in naturally occurring open-air seawater lagoons. The algae produces carotenoids, predominantly betacarotene, to protect itself from sunlight. This natural colourant has been increasingly used in the food and dietary supplements industries across the world as a healthy replacement for azo dyes.

Production of the microalgae varies from year to year due to changing priorities of the two production sites. Economic data for 2020-21 shows microalgae production in South Australia was 647 tonnes, valued at $4.85 million. However, production has been as high as 4,400 tonnes, valued at $37 million (in 2015-16).

I am also advised the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) conducts applied research for industry and government specifically on algae, including both microalgae and macroalgae (seaweeds).

SARDI has undertaken research and development on microalgae since 2004, which has included microalgae-based feedstock production for food, high value co-products for nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals, biofuels including jet fuels, feed, industrial applications and environmental remediation.

Microalgae can be cultivated in high-rate algal ponds such as raceways and photobioreactors in marine, freshwater or brackish water culture media. Both technologies have been evaluated at scale by SARDI for various species and product streams.

The Algal Production Group at SARDI undertook a bioprospecting program covering three states and environments extending from deep oceanic waters to saline inland lakes. Having evaluated over 15,000 samples, a culture collection of about 30 native isolates that belong to the SARDI microalgal culture collection are being maintained under controlled environment conditions. These strains have been selected for their high growth and various attributes of commercial significance. These strains are currently being utilised by SARDI for various industry-funded research projects.

SARDI is currently scoping two microalgal projects with the industry to establish a production facility for omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoid pigments.

SARDI has also previously been commissioned by PIRSA to produce spat for the oyster growing industry, condition oyster broodstock and produce microalgae, as an emergency measure for South Australian hatcheries.