Turning the desert green and red
Microalgae produce almost all the nutrients that humans need to survive. But, to truly harness microalgae’s tremendous potential, their cultivation much overcome significant technological and economic barriers. Algatech, an Israeli company, has succeeded in surmounting these obstacles. It operates a state-of-the-art microalgae cultivation site, producing algae-based products in the heart of the Arava Desert in Southern Israel, just north of the Red Sea. Algatech is considered one of the most advanced and innovative companies in microalgae agriculture. The company is a true Israeli success story.
Algatech's triumph begins with microalgae, the single-celled wonder-species. Microscopic algae were the first plants to appear in nature and are considered the basis of the entire food chain. Micro algae naturally accumulated almost all nutrients required for human life. Despite their enormous potential, only 10 out of over 200,000 known algae species have been commercialized so far due to economic and technological limitations. However, impressively, this modest Israeli company has built a sizeable, high-performance algae-cultivation plant in Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Desert. Like a lustrous pearl glowing in the heart of this desolate land, Algatech has succeeded in overcoming the odds, drawing water from a rock.
Algatech is considered one of the most forward-looking microalgae innovators in the world. The company produces unique varieties of microalgae used as raw material to produce biological ingredients for the dietary supplement and cosmetics industries.
“Since its establishment 20 years ago in Kibbutz Ketura, Algatech has developed winning competencies – the abilities to identify unique algae strains, apply effective production technologies, conduct clinical and pre-clinical trials to confirm scientific progress, and create sales channels to leading brands worldwide,” says Hagai Stadler, Algatech’s CEO. “The company has an amazing team of biologists, engineers, scientists, production workers and technicians whose mission is to make an impact by bringing all the good that is in microalgae to the world.”
Stadler says that the potential of the microalgae industry and the Arava desert’s ideal conditions for microalgae cultivation can bring prosperity to barren land – and position Israel as the global capital of marine biotechnology knowledge and expertise. "Through their support, the Israel Innovation Authority, the Israeli Investment Center and the Israeli Foreign Trade Administration have enabled Algatech to remain at the forefront of the global market. We are hopeful that additional Israeli governmental organizations will prioritize the biotechnology industry as a growth engine for the Arava and the State of Israel."
The flourishing Israeli food-tech industry
"The Israeli food-tech industry has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years and is taking a leading role worldwide with a broad range of innovative companies and institutions that provide solutions for the changing demands of the global food industry. Israeli businesses are pioneering food-ingredient substitutes and improving processes in manufacturing, preserving and packaging food," says Israel Export Institute food-tech manager Sahar Yazdanpour. “They are introducing solutions to support the health needs of consumers around the globe. We at the Israel Export Institute identified this emerging trend and established a new department that focuses specifically on diverse technologies for the food world and helps promote companies that provide promising solutions."
Yazdanpour adds that Algatech is an excellent example of how to support important health trends that are gaining momentum. The company's range of solutions is very broad, attracting attention worldwide. Algatech currently exports to more than 30 countries, mainly to the United States, Japan and Europe. “Throughout the coming year, Algatech and other food-tech companies are expected to participate in various promotional events – receiving important international media exposure through discussions with foreign journalists, business meetings with international food companies and connections to potential partners abroad,” she says.
The integration of science, innovation and agriculture.
Dr. Omer Grundman, Algatech biologist and R&D scientist, says, "During evolution, microalgae developed components and mechanisms that helped them survive extreme conditions and resist bacteria and fungi. These are the same components and mechanisms that we want to exploit for the benefit of humanity. Over the past few years, Algatech has developed a number of groundbreaking products that will be launched soon. The unique combination of agriculture, science and innovation has literally made the desert bloom, and we are all proud to be part of creating food-tech’s future”.
“Our flagship product is AstaPure, a natural astaxanthin derived from Haematococcus pluvialis, known as one of nature’s most potent antioxidants," says Yael Carrasso, VP of R&D, adding, “Algatech is actually learning how to improve nature from nature itself. Astaxanthin uses its microalgae source to protect its DNA under extreme conditions. Nature’s wildlife has learned to take advantage of astaxanthin for survival: salmon store it in their muscles before starting their long upstream journey; birds of prey accumulate it in their eyes to protect them from the sun's radiation.” Carrasso adds that over 500 clinical and pre-clinical studies have demonstrated the effects of astaxanthin on preserving human health, including: protecting normal eye function; maintaining the skin’s health and appearance; supporting athletic activity; improving cognitive abilities; promoting anti-inflammatory action and more”.
Yael Peremen, Algatech’s VP of Human Resources, concludes: “Algatech’s employees wrote the book on microalgae cultivation, and this requires know-how, creativity, determination, and a true connection to the vision. I believe that if Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, a pioneer who made his home in the desert, was alive today, he would have chosen a dynamic career at Algatech."
In cooperation with the Israel Export Institute