Currently, over 100 Megatons of seaweed constitute Europe’s largest biomass, but less than 0.25% is utilized. After they extract important chemical compounds from the seaweed, the chemical companies are left with 50-70% remains (“residual side-streams”), that have very little applications. These residuals are discarded, or at best, sold as low-cost, low nitrogen fertilizer. Existing data on more than 10.000 macroalgae species could help this industrial sector to improve processes, making smart and intelligent use of the residuals.
The iCULTURE project aims to prospect new seaweed resources and to generate a catalyst that can convert such seaweed residual side-streams into high value bioactives. In a broader sense, iCULTURE aims to contribute to answer the needs of the marine, feed, food, and industrial pharma sectors by establishing a novel zero-waste value chain. Importantly, the protection of ocean’s biodiversity life, and the utilisation of bioresources will be a combined goal of the project in a most unusual way. Among its goal, the project will turn potential blooming and invasive seaweed species that plague Europe into valuable biomass!
The main concept of iCULTURE is to create a new value chain with the help of three Toolboxes:
1) An Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) toolbox with machine learning algorithms that can highlight robust species suitable for utilisation;
2) A Models Toolbox that can predict the most resilient seaweed and will allow a management strategy to use seaweed in a responsible and sustainable manner;
3) A Technology Toolbox, with all the components for a digitally-controlled bacterial bioprocess utilising seaweed residuals and producing valuable products.
The benefits of iCULTURE are multiple:
iCULTURE is highly diverse, cross-disciplinary consortium, consisting of 17 partners from 10 countries. European expertise on ICT, bioinformatics, biodiversity, biotechnology, synthetic biology and bioprocessing, is combined to strive to achieve the project’s ambitious goals: develop a set of digital toolboxes that can prospect for new species of seaweed, utilize these in microbial fermentation, and understand how to use them responsibly and sustainably.