We know that there are still many challenges to large scale production of algae for bioenergy. We also predict that many of the companies hoping to achieve this might utilise non-energy uses first to generate revenue or move to a biorefinery model. We also expect experience of algae cultivation to be built up through its use in waste water cleanup. However, could synthetic biology be the shortcut to algal bioenergy challenges?
TransAlgae are one company who have put genetic manipulation at the forefront of their attempts to commercialise algae. Their application is the ornamental fish industry to help meet production goals through faster growth, good morphology, and higher survival rates.
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Another notable example is Craig Ventner. In this extarct from an article in Scientific American by David Bellio.
"Everybody trying to algae that are really robust and can withstand true industrial conditions on a commercial basis. You can't afford to shut down a plant for contamination. Most algae growers have to do that at a fairly frequent pace.
On the cell biology and strain development side of things, we have a large, greenhouse test facility in La Jolla [Calif.] We don't claim to have instant answers. We are talking a systematic scientific approach to trying all the past technologies and new ones with new twists. The thing that will make the difference is the Algae is a farming problem: growing, harvesting, extracting. It's a work in progress, and we're working hard."
Technology Strategy Board