o, what can we learn from the 10th Algae Biomass Summit, now in session in Phoenix, one of the nascent industry’s hub locations? For those who have attended this major industry mile marker through its tenured history, the news is as diverse as the product offerings now coming to market.
Over the years, since this event first brought the industry together under a shared vision of algae replacing our dependency on fossil fuels, the pivots have come hot and heavy. If fact it seemed this year that about the only word that went nearly unspoken was “biofuel.” From a former cause celebre, the biofuel application has been relegated to a way future possibility, to come long after the multitude of higher value applications have matured.
No longer is this gathering of nearly 600 algae scientists and entrepreneurs dominated by the presence, news or prognostications of the Sapphires, Solazymes and Algenols, the once dominant players in the algae space. They have been replaced by a new generation of algae businesses introducing real products with professional packaging, based on astaxanthin, omega-3, cooking oil, health foods, skin creams, nutritional drinks, soil conditioners, 3-D printing elements, plastics and much more – all available today for purchase.
Cultivation and harvesting tools were prominent among the 60 or so exhibitors, with many companies showing new approaches to open growing systems, photobioreactors, and advanced harvesting and drying systems.
In the coming days we will look deeper into the breakthrough products and applications, the high level deals and partnerships, and the increasing educational emphasis of this event. The future of this industry is education dependent, a concept stressed throughout the Summit, as none of this vision will realize without a serious commitment to train the best and the brightest new talent.
The takeaway from this 10th gathering of algae professionals seems to be that yes, the industry is real and now in the commercial manufacturing phase for several product areas, and hard at work solving problems in wastewater treatment, CO2 mitigation and co-location projects on an international level.
As a highly respected industry guru – who will remain nameless – suggested, we are in a time of the “promisability” of algae. There is still the optimistic promise of a future full of problems solved by algae, combined with the ability to create commercial products in the present.