Innovation and design to achieve results
At Cawthron we apply our 'continuous culture' system to grow algae known to produce commercially-valuable bioactives.
In conjunction with private sector partners, we have developed commercial-scale systems to maximise micro-algal productivity for the production of high value nutraceuticals. We continue to work with these partners to optimise algae strain development and to identify algal species with the potential to produce high value products. Longer-term, we are interested in developing algal production systems for use in large-scale biomass production.
Simple and affordable
Our strength is in the application of simple and affordable technology suitable for the bulk production of small to microscopic organisms. The development of these organisms' bioreactor systems will enable the rapid optimisation of growth parameters of those algal species with commercial potential.
Cawthron grows toxic microalgae in containment, which both supports our research and development work in harmful algal bloom (HABs) research, and enables the microalgae to be sold as certified reference standards for toxin analysis.
Higher-value and functional food applications
Cawthron is investigating the potential for algae as sources of ingredients for higher-value and functional foods. This research is undertaken in collaboration with other research providers and industry partners.
This is an important, growing area of interest. It also links in with our existing shellfish research, as some of the bioactives from algae may be consumed by and accumulated in shellfish, combining the algae's benefitical properties with their own. Shellfish may also modify some of the properties of the bioactive agents.
Overcoming stumbling blocks
A major stumbling block to commercial commodity production from algae is the cost of harvesting algae from the watery environments they grow in - either from enclosed bioreactor systems or open ponds. Also, many of the processes currently require the harvested algae to be dried, which is very energy intensive. Cawthron has adopted several approaches to overcome this challenge, and one of them has been the development of a device with no moving parts, which can concentrate algae from a flowing liquid. The team are also designing value chains for various potential products that require less de-watering than those currently in favour.
Understanding the product
We take pride in our ability to undertake chemical analyses and characterisation of biotoxins, bioactives and high value product compounds, using the latest chemical and biochemical analytical systems. One example is our analytical team's involvement in the characterisation of antioxidants from algae targeted towards the nutriceutical market.
See also Cawthron Natural Compounds in the Analytical Services section.