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Farmed algae - potential to be major sustainable source for the industry

By Michelle Yeomans , 27-Nov-2012

As marine extracts become increasingly important with cosmetic manufacturers, algae are receiving much attention due to their renewable nature. Arizona-based Heliae is one specialist company currently catering to this demand that says the organism group have great potential to be the industry's main source of sustainable actives.

According to Mike Rohlfson, Heliae’s business development director; more and more algae ingredients such as coastal plants, seaweeds and sea minerals are making their way into cosmetic products and hold the key to be the future's sustainable ingredient alternatives.

The cosmetics industry has a legacy involvement in algae and a wide array of strategic ingredients to access such as proteins, sterols, peptides, nucleotides, and pigments.”

To coincide with demand and its' experience in the precision-farming process, Heliae recently opened a 10 acre facility in Arizona complete with a specialist platform that enables the production of algae.

Rohlfson says that although formally accepted, technology obstacles and demand constraints have until now kept algae in the margins of the industry and that this company's technology can unlock it's value for cosmetic companies.

"Harnessing the full value of this plant will help generations overcome constraints in sustainability."

As the development of the cosmeceuticals category for example becomes ever more popular, Rohlfson points out that formulations in this area including naturally-derived ingredients such as camphor, allantoin and algae extract can be difficult to source because of limited supply resources.

But also adding that this area of the sector in particular can benefit from Heliae’s new platform.

The sustainable way forward

The development director goes on to note that with growth in the natural cosmetics segment expected to expand by 10 per cent annually to 2016, consumer understanding and access to information is growing and with it, much more scrutiny for the industry.

"Supply chain complexity is much higher and novel ingredients can be more volatile in supply and price," he adds.

However, Rohlfson says that despite factors like these, farmed algae can be benefical for cosmetic companies in that they are supply chain friendly, can be a bolt-on process to existing infrastructure, are protected from environmental issues like weather, at low risk of contamination and wholly sustainable in that farmland and fresh water are not needed.

The expert concludes by revealing that Heliae is currently working with "various species and pieces of biomass from those species to create high value, marine-based topical cosmetics and ingestible nutricosmetics."

The business development director delivered a presentation on this matter at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris last week.

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