European Union researchers develop new, lighter Chlorella microalgae strain with higher protein content and improved taste for food

The new development comes out of ProFuture, a European-funded Horizon 2020 research project. ProFuture’s goal is to increase production and use of protein-rich microalgae ingredients in food and feed.

Researchers in Europe have developed a new microalgae ingredient from Chlorella that they say is lighter in color and has higher protein content and improved organoleptic properties compared to other Chlorella ingredients. The researchers come from ProFuture, a European-funded Horizon 2020 research project. ProFuture’s goal is to increase production and use of protein-rich microalgae ingredients in food and feed.

Three organizations, all based in Portugal, worked together to initially develop the new Chlorella strain: The Marine Technology Research Group at the Algarve Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), a marine biotechnology group studying different fields of microalgal biotechnology; the Greencolab at the University of Algarve, a nonprofit collaboration between scientists and industry exploring micro- and macroalgae; and microalgae ingredients supplier Allmicroalgae.

The scientists took some novel strains of microalgal species, such as Chlorella vulgaris and Tetraselmis, with the aim of improving the quality of the biomass. They used a random mutagenesis process. The companies explained in a press release, “While mutations may occur spontaneously in nature, they can also be induced experimentally using laboratory procedures, isolating microalgae strains with different traits.”

The researchers selected characteristics of different species to create their new species—traits such as the ability to grow faster on solid medium compared to wildtype microalgae, in order to be produced at larger scale, and a higher protein content. Its organoleptics are also said to be more pleasant to the consumer, improving on the “grassy” taste, intense green color, and fishy odors common to microalgae-based food ingredients.

Allmicroalgae scaled-up production of the new Chlorella species at its facility. The ingredient was then shipped to the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research group (ILOVO; Belgium), the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA; Spain), and the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.; Spain). In these hands, it is undergoing further testing, including collaboratively with food producers, to fine-tune the new strain for food applications before entering the next stage of commercialization. The target applications include vegan sausages, snacks, soups, sports drinks, bread, and pasta.