Different versions of these Photo-Bioreactors have been implemented throughout Southeast Asia: Kuala Lumpur–based Bio-Nexus has founded Algaetech International Sdn Bhd which has a 15,000 square foot indoor facility for the production of Haematoccocus and using cylinder-shaped vertical plastic bags. In Brunei, a large tubular glass Photo-Bioreactor facility was recently opened, and in Thailand and Indonesia, the most commonly used type of Photo-Bioreactor is the open pond cultivation or raceway pond design used to grow Spirulina. In Thailand, cylinder-shaped indoor vertical polyethylene reactors are also used for the production of Haematococcus.

SBC, in collaboration with Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), a global manufacturing and renewable energy leader, is now launching the largest outdoor algae cultivation facility in Southeast Asia with technical support from a biotechnology company, Chitose Laboratory. The SBC-MC Algae Cultivation Facility (ACF), which is expected to yield up to 6 tonnes of dried algae biomass per year on an area of 1,000 m2, is an optimized outdoor Photo-Bioreactor system that maximizes yield and minimizes cost by growing indigenous microalgae strains adapted to Sarawak’s climate and light conditions in 24 m long, thin film, low density polyethylene flat panel bags.

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The high surface area to volume ratio, optimal gas-liquid transfer, easy operation and minimal contamination risk afforded by the flat panel bags results in improved photosynthetic activity, high biomass productivity, and lower production costs. In line with SBC’s development path towards digital transformation, the facility is integrated with monitoring system, embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide real-time monitoring of growth conditions such as pH, temperature, and light intensity as well as regulate the variables through automatic operations such as temperature cooling.

SBC aims to move beyond algae research to commercialization by actively engaging with local or international collaborators/partners in harnessing the benefits of algae, which will contribute to the economic viability and environmental sustainability in Sarawak.

The SBC-MC algae cultivation facility serves as a model for efficient production of algae based high value products. This facility also serves to model the next scale up phase to reach the production levels needed to meet the global demand for algae biomass, creates more job opportunities and spur the development of a new bioindustry in Sarawak. Through this, SBC hopes to be one of the key players in the global algae industry.

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