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Environmental Impacts of Large-Scale Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) Production in Hellisheidi Geothermal Park Iceland: Life Cycle Assessment.

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Tzachor, Asaf 
Smidt-Jensen, Asger 
Ramel, Alfons 
Geirsdóttir, Margrét 


Spirulina algae (Spirulina platensis) cultivated in geothermally powered photobioreactors is here proposed as a potentially resource efficient, zero-carbon, and nutritious alternative to conventional beef meat. Employing a standard life cycle assessment, environmental impacts of large-scale Spirulina production in this facility are calculated. The production facility is sited in Orka náttúrunnar (ON Power) Geothermal Park, Iceland, and benefits from resource streams accessible through Hellisheiði (Hellisheidi) power station, including renewable electricity for illumination and power usage, hot and cold water streams for thermal management, freshwater for cultivation, and CO2 for biofixation. During cultivation, GHG-intensive ammonia-based fertilizers are replaced with macronutrients sourced from natural open mines. LCA results show that production of 1 kg of wet edible biomass in this facility requires 0.0378 m2 non-arable land, 8.36 m3 fresh water and is carbon neutral with - 0.008 CO2-eq GHG emissions (net zero). Compared with conventionally produced meat from beef cattle, Spirulina algae cultured in the ON Power Geothermal Park, referred to in this study as GeoSpirulina, requires less than 1% land and water and emits less than 1% GHGs. Considering food and nutritional security concerns, cultivation in a controlled environment agriculture system assures consistent nutritional profile year-round. Moreover, GeoSpirulina biomass assessed in this study contains all essential amino acids as well as essential vitamins and minerals. While keeping a balanced nutrition, for every kg beef meat replaced with one kg GeoSpirulina, the average consumer can save ~ 100 kg CO2-eq GHGs. It is concluded that environmental impacts of GeoSpirulina production in the Hellisheidi facility are considerably lower than those of conventionally produced ruminants.



Research, Spirulina, Photobioreactors, Life cycle assessment, Environmental impact, Carbon neutrality, Alternative protein

Journal Title

Mar Biotechnol (NY)

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Horizon 2020 (862704, 862704, 862704, 862704)