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Duplaco paves the way in microalgae production - Marcel Oogink [Interview]

Duplaco is a Start-up Innovation Challenge 2017 contender. In this article Marcel Oogink explains why everyone should be including algae in their diet.

Duplaco is a Dutch start-up that has met the challenge of producing microalgae using a heterotrophic cultivation technology that enables the microalgae to grow in a tank without the need for sunlight.

At present, Duplaco is the only company that produces fresh liquid microalgae in Europe for human and animal consumption. It is well known that microalgae are an ideal functional ingredient for human nutrition. What makes Duplaco special is that they produce it in a complete innovative way. We interviewed founder Marcel Oogink to discover how this came about.

What sparked the initial idea behind Duplaco? How was your company created?

"I previously worked for an algae company called “Ingrepro” that produced microalgae autotrophically (i.e. Using energy from light - SK). However, this methood was not productive enough to keep the company alive. I still saw opportunities for microalgae, and started my own company. Besides selling microalgae, we also started to investigate heterotrophic cultivation (see below for description) . When I managed to do so, I reached out to investors and received the means to build Duplaco’s own production facility. Since the beginning of 2017, we are able to produce our own Chlorella."

Can you briefly explain how the heterotrophic production technology works?

"Heterotrophic production technology enabled us to lower production costs and made it possible to produce microalgae in Holland. The technology makes it possible to grow the microalgae in the dark as they do not need (sun)light. So the Chlorella grows homogeneously within a tank. The weather outside does not influence our production process at all and the Chlorella uses carbon molecules as an energy source. This way we can produce really high amounts of Chlorella in a quite small area."

Can you give a brief explanation about the range of products that Duplaco offers and how can they be applied?

"We offer fresh Chlorella in two different concentrations: 10% and 20% dry weight. Furthermore, we can dry the Chlorella and therefore we also offer Chlorella powder. The powder is easily mixed through other materials and in water it will distribute equally. The fresh Chlorella is a liquid, which can be mixed through almost everything.''The taste is so neutral and mild, it can be applied in almost everything without being noticed too much. Our Chlorella is vegan, so it fits in vegetarian or vegan products. It matches really well with fish and white chocolate for example. In any products with vegetables, it can be a healthy extra ingredient.''As we offer both liquid and powder form Chlorella, it can be applied in both liquid and dry end products. For sport drinks and food products, it is also a very useful ingredient. Our Chlorella is rich in, among other nutrients, protein, vitamin D and Iron, which all are especially essential for sports people."

Currently there are many microalgae producers catering to the growing market for natural, non-allergen, and non GMO ingredients. How do your products stand out from others in the market?

"Our microalgae can be applied fresh, as a liquid. There are no other microalgae products available at the moment in Europe that meet this condition. Most of the time the quality is not high enough to apply them in their most pure form. Besides this, we offer tailor-made microalgae. We could do this by mixing different microalgae, or we can steer our production process towards the desired nutritional value. We do not develop end products. That is up to our customers."

What's next for Duplaco?

"In two years' time, we will increase our production site to 300.000 kg of microalgae per year. Furthermore, we will start to cultivate different microalgae species, with different nutritional values. For example, a selenium rich microalgae, or a Chlorella that is rich in unsaturated fatty acids."
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