Reasearch Projects

SABANA – Sustainable Algae Biorefinery for Agriculture aNd Aquaculture (No.: 727874)

Project Period: 01.12.2016. – 30.11.2020.
Source: European Union H2020-BG-2016-2017
Project Funding: 540,875.00 EUR (total: 8,848,523.75 EUR)
Project Leader: sub-project at the Department Prof. Dr. Vince Ördög DSc

SABANA aims at developing a large-scale integrated microalgae-based bio-refinery for the production of bio-stimulants, bio-pesticides and feed additives, in addition to bio-fertilizers and aqua feed, using only marine water and nutrients from wastewaters (sewage, centrate and pig manure). The objective is to achieve a zero-waste process at a demonstration scales up to 5 ha sustainable both environmentally and economically. A Demonstration Centre of this bio-refinery will be operated to demonstrate the technology, assess the operating characteristics of the system, evaluate environment impacts and collaborate with potential customers for use.

The key advantages of SABANA project are: the sustainability of the process, using marine water and recovering nutrients from wastewaters while minimizing the energy consumption, and the socioeconomic benefits, due to the relevance of the target bio-products for two major pillars in food production as agriculture and aquaculture. Bio-products capable of increasing the yield of crops and fish production are highly demanded, whereas recovery of nutrients is a priority issue in the EU. Instead of considering wastewater as an inevitably useless and problematic residue of our society, SABANA acknowledges its potential as an opportunity for economically relevant sectors.

SABANA project includes (i) the utilization of microalgae-bacteria consortia and in co-culture with other algae to control grazing species, (ii) the implementation of efficient thin-layer cascade and raceway, (iii) the scale-up of reactors to ensure stable operation, (iv) to use marine water to increase the sustainability of the process; (v) to recover nutrients from wastewaters, (vi) to develop harvesting processes taking into account the remaining water, (vii) to establish processes for mild/energy efficient extraction of bio-products, (viii) to process residual biomass to produce bio-fertilizers and aqua feed in zero-waste schemes, (ix) using robust and sustainable technology.

Microalgae Biotechnology

In the last few years, a growing number of company representatives visited the Department Group of Plant Biology and their questions are basically related to these three topics:

  • mass culture of microalgae,
  • microalgae culture for biofuel production,
  • applicability of microalgae for animal nutrition and plant treatments.

Some of the enterprises – realizing the troubles – gave up their ideas, however we have continuous contacts or we have already had specific research contacts with others. We helped and gave advice to the Agro-Bioferment Ltd. during their licensing process for microalgae products which are capable for plant treatments. In return, the company produced microalgae biomass research for our projects. We studied the practical utilization of microalgae bio-stimulant effects for Talajkarbon Ltd. in Mosonmagyaróvár and their partners. In a joint research project with the Phylaxia Pharma Inc., we have tested the positive effect of microalgae polyunsaturated fatty acid on milk composition. We have investigated the microalgae biomass with high lipid content for biofuel production with IC-Produkt Inc. In relation to our domestic partners we highlight our ongoing professional contacts with the research institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA), which means cooperation in joint research projects:

  • MTA ATK Centre for Agricultural Research: testing of algae products on red pepper organic farming providing them crop safety, determining the taxonomic situation of microalgae by molecular biology techniques, examination of microalgae volatile organic compounds and insect repellent effect.
  • MTA ÖK BLI Centre for Ecological Research, Balaton Limnological Institute: microscopic examination of microalgae.
  • MTA SZBK Biological Research Centre: plant biotechnological methods and molecular taxonomic analysis of microalgae.

Research work of the Department Group of Plant Biology has always been characterized by the internationality. We took international demands and trends into account when we were selecting research topics. Algae biofuel production research was started first by an entrepreneurial contact and it was continued by a TÁMOP support from the EU and the Government of Hungary. First, we worked together with the IGV – Institut für Getreideverarbeitung GmbH – operating in Nuthetal, Germany – between 1993 and 1996 by the financial support of the Province of Brandenburg. We studied the algae plant hormone production and plant protecting effect by bioassays. We have organized international scientific meetings with the IGV since 1995. The general European “Workshop” covering all aspects of microalgae biotechnology was held in Nuthetal one year and in the next, we have a “Symposium” in Mosonmagyaróvár focusing on the utilization of microalgae in agriculture and energy industry. We took part in the project called “Fixierung von Kohlendioxid aus Rauchgasen mittels Algen” on behalf of the Hochschule Lausitz (Senftenberg) in 2010 and 2011. We had a cooperation with the Stuttgart based Fraunhofer Institut Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik in an EU FP7 (FP7-SME-2007-2) project in 2008: “Development of an innovative industrial bioreacting and fermentation process producing an organic insect repellent-fertilizer for ecological farming”. In the Norwegian coordinated project we were looking for algae with insect repellent effect and we found some among the strains of MACC. The result of this effective cooperation another successful EU FP7 (FP7-SME-2012) project was elaborated: “Development of a process to generate a novel plant protection product enriched with micronutrients to replace copper in organic farming”. The aim of the project was to replace copper in the organic production of grapes. The Laboratory of Growth Regulators is run jointly by the Palacky University and Institute of Experimental Botany in Olomouc, Czech Republic. We have working contact with the Laboratory since 2002 in the field of microalgae plant hormone production. The Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development is a part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg, Republic of South Africa). We work with them since 2001 in the field of research of microalgae plant hormone production. The Czech laboratory was only officially involved in bilateral cooperation to confirm our previous bioassays by analytical measurement.


Plant Biotechnology

We have managed to develop a generally applicable in vitro plant regeneration and transformation system in the project called: “Development of new combined methods for gene transfer with Beta vulgaris L. as a model plant” between 2000 and 2002 (project No.: BIO-00124/2000). The work was supported by the Research and Development Deputy State Secretary (Ministry of Education). Using this system, it was possible to genetically transform quickly and effectively such plants that can be hardly cultured in vitro (regeneration depends on genotype) by gene constructions with different beneficial characteristics (valuable for crop production and processing). We have studied certain parameters of the direct (biolistics) and indirect (Agrobacterium mediated) gene-transfer in which the BETA Research Institute Ltd. and the Agricultural Biotechnology Center were involved. Based on the results of the previous project, we have continuously cooperated with the BETA Research Institute Ltd. in order to produce fodder beets with higher sucrose content by reducing endogenous Fru-2,6-P2 level for the purpose of bioethanol production in the project called “Alternative energy sources from Beta vulgaris L. by biotechnological methods” (No.: GVOP-3.1.1.-2004-05-0019/3.0), between 2005 and 2008. After the gene-transfer, the transformed tissue was cultured on a selective media and we regenerated plants from them according to the mentioned regeneration protocol. The supposed transgenic plants were determined by PCR analysis, whereas the expression level of useful genes by RT-PCR method. The altered carbohydrate profiles were determined spectrophotometrically based on using NAD-NADH interconversion enzymatic assays.


GOP-1.1.1-11-2012-0157 “Extraction and Industrial Utilization of Organic Compounds from High-lipid Content Suspensions”

Based on the decision of the Management Authority of the Economic Development Operational Program, we have gained 585,190,340 HUF support. The main goal of the project was to develop a new equipment or method for extracting organic compounds from suspensions with high lipid content (algae suspension, diary and oily waste water). Therefore, the hazardous biomass can be re-cycled in the industry. During the development, we made a prototype which was able produce economically, technically, environmentally and energetically sufficient devices. We registered a patent on the new processes and technologies. The long-term aim of SKC Consulting Ltd. was to find domestic and international market for the system and process. To reach this goal, they have developed an algae cultivation system which is flexible for market needs and ensures photosynthesis close to maximum level thus providing high productivity. The un-economic use of potable water in dairy industry needs a recycling process, that means cleaning the wastewater on site. Besides, the by-product of the treatment will also be useful organic biomass. Another aim of the project was in site purification of organic hydrocarbon contaminated industrial water keeping contaminant substances within the limit values established by the law. Also, the project goal was the significant reduction of industrial pollution level by continuous online monitoring systems provided for environmental and other special authorities. Consortium members were SKC Consulting Ltd., IC-Produkt Inc. and the University of West Hungary, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Institute of Plant Biology and Biosystem Engineering.


TÁMOP-4.2.2.A-11/1/KONV-2012-0003 “Microalgae Biotechnology for Sustainable Agriculture”

The project was supported by the European Union and co-financed by the European Social Fund in total amount of 492,826,142 HUF. Today, humanity faces two major challenges which are global warming and the uncertain fossil energy supply with rising costs. Microalgae biotechnology not only offers a solution to both challenges, but it is also suitable for the preparation of unique metabolites which are not produced by other organisms. The microalgae carbon-dioxide uptake reduces the emission of this gas (responsible for causing greenhouse effect), while they produce a huge amount of biomass and biofuels for which no other photosynthetic organisms are capable. However, this new biotechnological approach can only be successful if we improve the energy balance of the process and reduce the production cost of algae biomass. Technological development should proceed to algae culture equipment with cheaper and lower operating costs which can make production of biofuels more economically. In addition, special secondary metabolites produced by the algae could be potential raw materials of pharmaceutical industry and agricultural production. To accomplish this, additional molecular biological methods are needed. Recent decline in social acceptance of synthetic pesticides and medicines enhanced the research of the naturally-occurring active ingredients which is supported by the European Union as well. The research activities (3 sub-projects and 10 topics) were carried out within 31 months by a consortium (University of West Hungary, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Agricultural Research, Institute of Agriculture) and started in December 1, 2012. In this project our aim was to increase the results – achieved by the research of bio-pesticides and biofuels – to an international level and then make it innovative by developing molecular biological techniques and applications. The key-question of biodiesel production by microalgae is the improvement of energy balance. The condition of economical introduction is to develop simpler and cheaper methods and the most valuable utilization of residual biomass components. In this project, we aimed to improve the energy balance by appropriate measurements. We also investigated whether the microalgae for production of valuable agricultural materials depends on the extent to which culture and biomass extraction methods were used.

The Institute of Plant Biology provided the scientific leader of the project (Prof. Dr. Vince Ördög) and the project manager (Dr. Zoltán Molnár). The staff of the Institute took part in the second sub-project (“Characterization of microalgae producing plant protective secondary metabolites by molecular biological methods”), the sub-project leader was Prof. Dr. Vince Ördög.


TÁMOP-4.2.2.D-15/1/KONV-2015-0023 “CLIMATE IMPACT – Complex Analysis of the Effects of Climate Change, Preparation of International R&D Projects at the University of West Hungary”

The project was supported by the European Union and co-financed by the European Social Fund in total amount of 287,064,552 HUF. The CLIMATE IMPACT project was created to establish research groups engaged in basic interdisciplinary and target basic research, which are suitable to participate in research programs of the European Union, particularly in the Horizon 2020 framework. Besides the participation of university researchers and prominent foreign researchers, we paid special attention to involve young researchers, doctoral students and undergraduate students. The groups established by inter- and multidisciplinary principles significantly increase the R&D&I&E capacity of the university providing qualitative and quantitative development of knowledge production. During the project, we have studied a comprehensive professional field that – directly or indirectly – involves almost the entire spectrum of technical, IT, life and natural sciences. Analyzing the effects of climate change, adapting international research and development experiences, testing new research methods we could obtain new scientific results. Broadening the professional knowledge of research participants, strengthening the international research collaborations of the university could induce further international R&D projects. Since the climate change and the examination of the impact of climate change are highlighted areas in the EU, the project will also create significant opportunities for joining to international leading research teams. The 8-month long project period was carried out by a consortium (University of West Hungary, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Research) and started in April 2, 2015. As participation from the University of West Hungary, the colleagues of the Faculty of Forestry, the Károly Simonyi Technical, Wood Science and Arts Faculty, the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the Faculty of Economics and the Faculty of János Apáczai Csere were involved in the research. The Institute of Plant Biology took part in the elaboration of a theme and a sub-theme leading by Prof. Dr. Vince Ördög. The theme was called “B) Assess of the impact of climate change on culture-ecosystems” whereas the sub-theme was called “B2) Increasing crop safety and pesticide-free pest control – biotechnological use of microalgae in crop production and plant protection”.