Microalgae: Big feed potential in a small package
As the search for non-antibiotic feed ingredients continues, some believe the answer could be just under the microscope, in the tiny world of microalgae.
The need for high quality additives to compensate for the deficit of physiologically active components in ordinary animal feeds continues to grow. In the past, the primary goal has been to increase the feed assimilability, primarily through the use of small concentrations of specific components and the addition of enzymes, raising the degree of cellulose hydrolyzation, assimilability and the commodity weight of production per feed unit. But this approach can raise concerns over product quality impairment and it doesn't adequately address animal sustainability to illnesses.
Another problem facing the animal feed industry today is the consequence of using antibiotics in feed. While antibiotics were proven to be effective in improving poultry production, their use came under pressure as an increasing number of consumers feared their inclusion in animal feed rations would lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are pathogenic to humans. In 2005, the European Union removed the last antibiotic growth promoters from pig and poultry diets, and the subject of finding alternatives to these additives has attracted intense interest since that time.
As consensus begins to develop among the scientific community on this subject, a few approaches stand out for efficacy, as well as technological and economical feasibility, particularly the use of organic acids and the use of essential or botanical oils. Organic acids provide a natural alternative, reducing production of toxic components by bacteria and causing a change in the morphology of the intestinal wall that reduces colonization of pathogens, thus preventing damage to the epithelial cells (Feed International, September 2007). Anions of organic acids deactivate RNA enzyme, which damages the nucleic acid multiplication process and eventually results in death of the organisms. But the use of organic acids and essential oils in the feed industry can potentially be a source of problems: corrosion, worker safety, handling concerns, vitamin stability in premixes, environmental concern, and stability of products.
A third problem facing the animal feed industry is the escalating price of feed, impacted by the use of its components in biofuel production.
Microalgae production may turn out to be a global way to settle all of these problems. Market surveys show that microalgae production volume has increased greatly over the past 20 years, and the cultivation of microalgae is well-recognized as the most profitable business in the biotechnological industry. It is a wasteless, ecologically pure, energy-saving and resource-conserving process. Microalgae are a diverse group of microscopic plants exhibiting a wide range of physiological and biochemical characteristics. They contain, among other things, high-quantity natural proteins, amino acids, vitamins, pigments and enzymes. Microalgae contain up to 50 to 70 percent protein (compared to up to 50 percent in meat, and 15 to 17 percent in wheat), 30 percent lipids, over 40 percent glycerol, up to 8 to 10 percent carotene and a fairly high concentration of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, E, K, and D, compared with other plant or animal sources. Moreover, microalgae are meant to be an important raw material for amino acids, vitamins and medical production. Biofuel production is expected to be a new, rapidly growing global market for algae products.
Chlorella is a microscopic, green, single cell (diameter of 3 to 10 micrometers). In 1924, the German scientists Garder and Uitsh noted the key necessity of Chlorella industrial cultivation for the production of feed additives. H. Nakamura (1961) showed that Chlorella was digested much more easily in the form of paste. He recommended the following rates: for poultry, 20 g; pigs, 1.5 kg; and cows, 2 to 3 kg of paste. In the form of dry powder, up to 5 percent in the daily diet. Chlorella protein digestibility for pigs was 56 percent. The average daily weight gain of pigs doubled due to the use of Chlorella paste. According to M. Hintz and H. Heitman research, Chlorella protein digestibility for pigs was 52 percent, and for nitrogen-free components, 70 percent. Salnikov showed that Chlorella protein digestibility for pigs (6g dry powder in the daily diet) was 76 to 78 percent, and for sheep, 52 percent. Thus, the average daily weight gain for tested sheep was 181 g and for control sheep, only 100 g.
Improved protein digestibility
Chlorella protein digestibility reached up to 85 percent when adding 167 g microalgae paste in the daily diet of pigs, and up to 39 percent when adding 300 g dry powder. After drying, the protein digestibility of Chlorella decreased significantly. Adding 1 liter microalgae suspension in the daily diet of sheep increased their weight gain by 15 to 20 percent in five facilities of Uzbekistan (in 1980, more than 500 Chlorella production units were founded in Uzbekistan, mainly for sheep). A similar weight gain increment was identified when adding Chlorella in the cow diet, which resulted in a milk yield increase by 17 to 20 percent
Y. Asrarov (1972) showed that the poultry egg-laying quality increased up to 24 percent due to Chlorella powder use, up to 30 percent for paste, and up to 15 percent (0.25 to 0.5 g dry substance per liter) for thickened suspension. Some researchers testified that the optimal dose of Chlorella was 5 to 7 g powder, 7 to 10 g paste and up to 50 ml suspension in the daily diet of poultry. The poultry average daily weight gain increment reached 11 percent as a result of Chlorella powder use, compared to 13 to 16 percent for paste and 12 to 40 percent for suspension. The experiments carried out by A. Myzafarov and H. Nakamura showed that using Chlorella powder raised the poultry egg-laying quality by 20-30 percent while paste (0.5-2g per day) raised egg-laying quality by 26 to 30 percent. The quantity of vitamins in liver increased 2 to 3 times.
In the course of the four-month experience, the egg-laying quality increased by 23 percent with the addition of 6 ml paste to the daily diet, and the contents of carotene in eggs yolk increased by 40 percent. The output of chickens from tested eggs was 83 percent compared with 41 percent from control eggs. Due to the Chlorella use in diet, the egg-laying quality increased by 12 to 15 percent in the poultry farm of Saratov Region. Also, the poultry average daily weight gain increased by 13 percent in Volgograd Region, Russia. A decreased rate of poultry mortality (7 percent) was seen in the farms of Astrakhan Region, and 20 to 23 percent in the farms of the Ukraine Kharkov Region. Combined feed with 1 percent of Chlorella powder was used to administer tests on 25,200 species of young fishes (average weight, 12.7 g) at the Khosrov trout farm of Armenia. During the first 20 days, the daily average weight gain increased by 20 percent (0.97 g in tested and 0.73 g in the control group) and the mortality was reduced by 48 percent (0.77 percent and 1.25 percent respectively). The weight difference between the trout species became insignificant for both tested and control groups.
In spite of the great demand and the high international price for microalgae in food and cosmetic markets, our center plans to develop innovative technologies with low cost production to promote the feed market access.
Hence, the success of our strategy may help reduce not only the general deficiency, but the quality of the majority of feed additives as well, which may be one of the major factors in prevelance of animal and poultry disease. The potential demand for microalgae powder as a feed additive for poultry is $8.8 million in the Armenian domestic market, over $1.2 to $7.2 billion in the United States, above $1.4 billion in China, and $600 million in Iran, to name but a few.
Our strategy believes that the cost saving of the raw material with the use of wastewaters (chemical, biotechnological and food industries) through their biological cleaning will help raise the availability of microalgae for feed consumers.
The production of microalgae feed additives offers global prospects and may provide sustainable economic development. Furthermore, the microalgae business development is closely attached to the global progress trend and international market demands.
Cyanotech produces products from microalgae grown at its 90-acre facility in Hawaii, USA, using patented and proprietary technology and distributes them to nutritional supplement, nutraceutical, cosmeceutical, and animal feed makers and marketers in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Established in 1969, Sun Chlorella has 32 corporate offices located throughout Japan, the U.S., Europe and Asia, reaching customers worldwide with microalgae nutrition products.