PHL’s first algal concentrator aims to solve hatchery production woes

BREAKTHROUGH Soledad S. Garibay, innovator of the first Microalgae Paste and inventor of the first Algal Concentrator technology in the Philippines, demonstrates microalgae cultivation process in the natural food production facility at UPV hatchery. (Photo by Joyce Bitoca)

By: Joyce Bitoca and Alysha Gelvosa

MIAGAO, Iloilo – A newly developed algal concentrator technology is the first invention to address Philippines’ aquaculture industry problems particularly on microalgae cultivation in hatcheries.

The algal concentrator allows the harvest of cultured live microalgae and concentrate to form microalgae paste which can be used as direct feeds to early larval stage of milkfish, shrimps, mangrove crabs, and other hatchery commodities. Its unique feature is keeping the microalgae cells alive.

Soledad S. Garibay, the innovator of the first microalgae paste, invented the algal concentrator through a Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-funded research provided to the Institute of Aquaculture of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in University of the Philippines Visayas.

Garibay pointed out two major reasons for the development of the algal concentrator–the collapse of cultured microalgae due to adverse weather conditions, and the unavailability of the technology to address these problems in hatchery operations.

“Most hatcheries in the Philippines culture their own microalgae using the conventional system. But this requires big tanks for tons of culture. So imagine eto yung pinapakain nila, so kung mag-collapse dahil sa paiba-ibang klima, wala na silang ipapakain,” Garibay said.

Algal concentrator helps in the production of sufficient and quality microalgae while minimizing operational costs such as construction of production facilities, manpower, and culture period that the conventional process consumes.

“It is more advantageous to buy na lang [microalgae paste] than setting up your own [culture facility], because there’s a chance for a collapse, which is more laborious and it eliminates your labor cost,” according to UPV Fisheries Technology Business Incubation project leader Milyn C. Leghid.

The algal concentrator and the microalgae paste branded as Juan Algae Paste are the pride of the Microalgae Program of DOST-PCAARRD and UPV.

These breakthroughs became the foundation of Algacon Aquafeeds Manufacturing (AAM), the first project-based research of UPV to go business spin-off.

“Although we are registered and operating as a private company, we are still under the umbrella of UPV. We took the challenge to commercialize our product and do business ventures. The pressure is on because the university and the DOST are benchmarking us but, so far, the business operations are doing well”, said AAM Operations Manager John Rick F. Bolaño.

Juan Algae Paste is currently distributed nationwide by APM Agricom Incorporated, the sales and marketing partner of AAM.

The technology, however, is still under development.

“Our existing units so far are for laboratory-based production only but part of the company’s plan is to fabricate our algal concentrator for mass-scale production and automate all our processes from production to storage,” he added.

The company is open for licensing the technology for future production.

Joyce Bitoca and Alysha Gelvosa are 2nd year student of Communications and Media Studies at UP Visayas-Miagao. This report is part of their requirements in CMS 131 (News Reporting) under Dr. Zoilo Andrada