Chinese corporation invests in microalgae research in South Australia

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags: South australia, Nutrition

A global Chinese agribusiness group will work with Australian academics to expand a microalgae and marine bioproduct development centre in Adelaide.

The research collaboration between Shandong Tianjiu Industrial Group and Flinders University will be worth A$1m (US$760,000) over three years and focus on identifying new products and developing advanced manufacturing technologies.

These will be used to increase applications, yields and purity of high-value marine bioproducts for functional foods in the premium export market. 

Tianjiu, with more than 7,000 hectares of intensive commercial farming, has annual global sales of more than $A220m. 

Its biotech subsidiary produces more than 500 tonnes of plant product extracts a year, including yam flour, malt extract and a popular certified non-dairy creamer.

Tianjiu is also one of the largest manufacturers of plant-derived functional peptides from food crops such as soybean, corn and peas. Its plant extracts have a wide range of applications in the health food and nutritional supplement industries, beverage and baking sectors, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.

This is not the first collaboration by Flinders University with Chinese partners. In 2014, it partnered with Gather Great Ocean Group to establish an joint advanced macroalgae laboratories in Adelaide and Qingdao.

Wei Zhang, director of the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development at Flinders, said the new agreement covered the first phase of investment and could expand in the future.

South Australia’s clean marine environment is very highly regarded in Asia​,” Prof Zhang said.

Developing high-value marine biotech for advanced food manufacturing will add to Australia’s growing marine ‘blue economy’ which is forecast to grow to more than A$100bn [US$75.6bn] by 2025​.”

South Australia is considered a world leader in clean, green premium seafood and has large stocks of southern bluefin tuna, abalone, oysters and southern rock lobster.

Microscopic marine algae or phytoplankton is a sustainable and inexpensive source of single-celled photosynthetic organisms closely related to plants that contain compounds with benefits for human health and nutrition, animal diets and can even be used for next-generation biofuels.

Proteins and peptides from microalgae, and other marine organisms, can be used as functional foods or supplements in a more healthy diet and to prevent or treat some medical conditions.

South Australian investment and trade minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said the agreement represented an opportunity to strengthen connections between Shandong and South Australia in research, development and commercialising results.

[It] may also identify opportunities to export commodities, such as dairy and barley, and investment in agriculture businesses in Australia and advanced manufacturing of high-value products​,” Hamilton-Smith said.

Related topics: Business, Oceania, Fortification, Seafood

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