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The REALM project brings greenhouse farmers and microalgae producers together

Soilless farming and microalgae production are fast-growing industries, looking for solutions to increase their sustainability and reduce costs. Greenhouses increasingly contain hydroponic systems to grow crops. The majority of Europe’s greenhouse tomatoes are currently produced in these soilless systems. They provide plants directly with water and nutrients, increasing crop productivity and using water more efficiently than conventional production methods.

Fertilizers added to the drain water for fast and healthy plant growth, have to be removed so they don‘t pollute the environment. Yet, high-tech water treatment systems are expensive. We develop a cost-effective water treatment system to help farmers recycle their drain water at no or reduced cost. The drain water from soilless culture systems can be used to grow microalgae. They remove the fertilizers and can then be sold to produce bio-products, generating extra revenue.

Microalgae are tiny oxygen producers. Rich in proteins, omega fatty acids and health-beneficial compounds, microalgae represent a sustainable source for food, feed, agrochemicals and cosmetics. Even though they have a simple life-style their cultivation requires water, nutrients, CO2 and energy. At the moment, we cannot fully unlock the potential of microalgae. The price of water, nutrients like nitrogen, CO2, energy, and highly trained personal make the cultivation of microalgae costly. We rethink the way we grow microalgae to reduce their production costs: using drain water from greenhouses as a source of free water and nutrients, capturing CO2 from the air, using solar energy, as well as new technology to automate production and control it remotely.

Find out more about REALM here.

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