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Scale Up

Solarvest producing organic-certified omega-3 algal oil

June 23, 2014

Linda Grant, a Solarvest laboratory technician, and Sean LeBlanc, a Solarvest development technician, test algae growth and sterility inside a company clean room at its Summerville, P.E.I. facility.

Linda Grant, a Solarvest laboratory technician, and Sean LeBlanc, a Solarvest development technician, test algae growth and sterility inside a company clean room at its Summerville, P.E.I. facility.

The Guardian reports that Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Canada-based Solarvest has created an inventive system utilizing a specific algal strain to grow and produce EPA DHA omega-3 oil under controlled conditions. According to Solarvest chief operating officer Garth Greenham, the result is the first organic-certified, chemical-free omega-3 fatty acids in the world, as well as breakthrough technology to generate hydrogen.

With a proprietary technology platform utilizing a metabolic “switch” — developed by chief scientific officer Dr. Raymond Surzycki — Solarvest can alternately prompt algae to discharge hydrogen gas, as well as oxygen, while consuming carbon dioxide.

Acquired in 2013, Solarvest’s 30,000-square-foot building houses production and R&D operations, with laboratories and administrative offices for the staff of 10.

“P.E.I. offered the most support and was helpful in the tough early years,” says Michael McDougall, team engineering lead, a UPEI and Dalhousie University graduate who heads up the company’s operation on the island.

“We’ve developed a stable talented workforce – many living locally in Alberry Plains, Cardigan and Brudenell – and engage with local contractors and suppliers. We hire Holland College and UPEI graduates, and collaborate with both institutions.”

Many levels of government are supporting Solarvest’s promising R&D. This includes three Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grants for university research collaboration, plus a combined total of $2.8 million in fully-repayable ACOA and Atlantic Innovation Fund grants to advance the scale-up of the operation.

“We’re a green company,” says Greenham. “We’re looking for B-Corp certification, meeting the highest standards of global social and environmental performance.”

The company, a subsidiary of Solarvest Bio-Energy Inc., headquartered in Vancouver, will expand production in Summerville as it begins delivery of algae-based omega-3 products to customers. For Greenham, that’s an important next step in the emerging global algal industry.

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