Microalgae in the “Land of the Prophets” – Ocean farmers in Atlantic Shores
Much more than the fine sand beach which goes for more than 9 km’s, the several geological monuments, mountain trails and sea water with tepid temperatures all year long, Porto Santo, best known as “Atlantic pearl”, also presents one of the biggest and most important biotechnological companies in Europe. Buggypower is one of the best examples of what it’s like to bet on the future, measuring well the risks that these new technologies present, taking into account the benefits and rewards that are guaranteed, and not just in financial terms. Human health, animal nutrition, pharmaceutical and cosmetic research, and, perhaps more important these days, environmental remediation, are just some of the sectors that the company covers and as such, it proposes to be better and better every day, delivering very high quality results. In Buggypower’s infrastructures, located in Porto Santo’s port, Life is generated via microalgae, producing biomass for various value-added products, such as for the SkinPerfection brand (by Bluevert), already presented in Revista Rua, (Skin Perfection).
Recognizing that algae and microalgae are responsible for about 70 to 80% of the terrestrial oxygen, and that there are well over 50,000 recognized species, it is not surprising that their chemical and biological properties may underlie several bioproducts that we use on a daily basis, from food to cosmetics.
In the Atlantic island, Buggypower company is thus responsible for the development of the raw material known as biomass – all organic material of animal or vegetable origin that can be used for the production of energy or high-value bioproducts -, and which is at the base of these end products. Considering that algae are marine organisms rich in various complexes, such as fatty acids (for example, Omega-3, DHA and EPA), carotenoids and antioxidants, their application in industry is increasingly relevant, not only due to greater search for alternatives for a healthier lifestyle (by replacing animal proteins and excessive consumption of foods that can cause problems to our health), but because they can also be applied to the treatment of various diseases, not just dermatological, but, according to specific species, also of oncological, cardiovascular and neurological origin.
The company’s physical structure appears to be simple. For outsiders, it is “only” close to 3000 “vertical tubes”, sometimes filled with a green or reddish liquid and gas. However, it is in these photobioreactors, their technical name, with 8 meters high, and in laboratories that no one imagines that could exist there, that, in a closed system (that is, not in contact with the atmosphere), various species are produced certified: Chlorella, Tetraselmis, among others. And for this transformation, very specific requirements are needed, which, fortunately, Porto Santo can supply: sun, sunlight that is the basis of photosynthesis for all plants, nutrients to feed and grow production, marine water, extracted from the sea , but properly filtered and returned to the ocean after use (with special attention to the environmental balances that must be kept in a highly controlled manner, guaranteeing the company’s sustainability) and CO2 in the form of organic carbon. It is in this last factor that Buggypower once again innovates and surprises. With a retention capacity of at least 85% of the CO2 used as an energy source for the growth of microalgae and with the capacity to capture approximately 200 tons of CO2 per year, the company uses this greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Madeira Electricity Company’s Thermal Power Plant, which is located literally on the other side of the road. It may not seem important, but in reality, with the current need to reduce GHG emissions and government impositions to achieve the specific targets defined for most Western countries, and knowing that in Portugal 10% of emissions result only from the agricultural sector (not counting the public and private transport sector), it is imperative to find environmental, sustainable and balanced solutions that allow for an energy mass balance aiming at more ecological and technological green development policy.
Buggypower is therefore a visionary company, where not only its CEO, Pedro Escudero is the true leader, when raising and promoting more and better results for the work as well as for the entire technical team, but because it also garantees a quality of excellence, in a permanent daily and technological challenge, where there is a real passion for the work that is done. Buggypower also corresponds to an answer for a research and development area in continuous growth in Portugal, that will also change the countrys’ energetic future.
Acknowledgments: Buggypower and Pedro Escudero for making possible the visit to Porto Santo Production Unit
Article originally published in Portuguese: https://www.revistarua.pt/microalgas-na-terra-de-profetas-agricultores-de-mar-em-terra-atlantica/