The LIFE ALGAECAN project, led by CARTIF, is successfully testing a wastewater treatment system for vegetable processing using microalgae, a pioneering technique in Europe. This initiative is financed by the European Union through the LIFE program, the Union’s financial instrument to promote demonstration projects in the field of the environment.

Last Wednesday of October 13, representatives of the European Commission visited the Huercasa plant in Sanchonuño, where the current phase of the project is focused, to check its progress.
The main objective of ALGAECAN is to reduce the environmental impact and the economic cost of the production of vegetables, by treating the wastewater produced by this type of industry with heterotrophic microalgae.

Heterotrophic microalgae are those that require organic compounds for their nutrition and that grow in the absence of light. They have great potential to remove organic carbon and various types of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds from wastewater, which use it as a source of carbon and energy without the need for sunlight.

The project started in October 2017 and is currently in the demonstration phase of the purification technology at the Huercasa facilities. In February 2020, the demonstrator in Sanchonuño is scheduled to move to Slovenia, to the facilities of the VIPI company, another of ALGAECAN’s partners, to verify its operation with other types of water and in other environmental conditions.

After the first tests carried out in recent months in Huercasa, a purified water is being obtained that is within the legal limits of discharge, in addition to completely eliminating the sludge that is generated in the usual way in the traditional purification process of this type. of water in aerobic conditions, and also obtaining microalgae as a by-product that can be used as fertilizer or for animal feed.

Carrying out the entire process in the absence of light allows working with closed tanks, which significantly reduces the space required for purification, compared to other purification processes in autotrophic conditions, where large areas of land are required for algae have the necessary light to be able to purify the water.

The plant prototype is also powered by renewable energy, specifically solar energy and biomass support, with the aim of minimizing the carbon footprint and operating costs.
The ultimate goal of the project is to be able to replicate its results elsewhere.

The ALGAECAN project consortium is made up of the CARTIF Technology Center (as coordinator), HUERCASA (Spain), the University of Athens (Greece), the AlgEn Technology Center (Slovenia) and VIPÎ (Slovenia).

Huercasa has maintained an active water policy for years, both in terms of savings and purification. Regarding wastewater treatment, Huercasa has its own wastewater treatment plant in which it invests annually to make improvements and ensure that discharges comply with all the parameters established by law.

In addition, and for greater security, the company has been collaborating for years with the municipal wastewater treatment plant in Sanchonuño, a town where the company’s main plant is located, where the discharges from the factory will stop.