September the 19th, 2023 – The joining together of research and entrepreneurial drive have created the Croatian World of Algae (Svijet algi) project near Zapresic.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the Croatian World of Algae project is an innovative green transition project located in the small town of Jablanovec near Zaprešić, close to Zagreb.
Construction entrepreneur Tomislav Dutković and his partners started the eco-growing of microalgae chlorella vulgaris there. Commonly referred to as the “queen” among algae, it boasts a lot of nutritional and medicinal properties. As a result it has some truly incredible potential in nutrition, cosmetics, agriculture and environmental protection.
This project is unique because instead dehydrated, fresh algae is used, and instead of the usual cultivation process done in tubes, it is grown in twelve outdoor pools in Jablanovec, which is much more profitable.
Placement on the market
The investor, in cooperation with Croatian scientists and companies from various sectors, including the Ruđer Bošković Institute, managed to come up with a profitable and very meaningful business with a quick return on investment, and it turned out to be almost made for Croatian soil. The Croatian World of Algae project is one of the projects that will be one of the investment opportunities that both small and large investors can take advantage of.
Dutković spoke about the Croatian World of Algae project in the middle of the algae harvest. The harvest is currently in full season because the heat and the sun accelerate photosynthesis and the amount of algae doubles on a daily basis. After three to four years of studying all the details of cultivation, in which mentors from the Netherlands helped them out, the first algae took to the pools last spring after propagation from just 1.5 litres that they got from a seed bank in Germany.
200-250,000 litres of algae in Jablanovec
“From a litre and a half, we managed to obtain three, and so it went on. Today, we’ve managed to reach 200-250,000 litres of algae in Jablanovec, where we produce raw material that we intend to put on the market with added value. Owing to that, we’ve already developed several unique products, and others are being developed as well.
As algae reproduces when it’s warm and sunny, our season now lasts about eight months, but the plan is to make a new investment in a greenhouse and water heaters, in order to extend it to the whole year,” explained Tomislav Dutković, who in this business together with his wife Josipa Dutković and partner Dubravko Škar.
So far, they have invested a total of 700,000 euros in the unique Croatian World of Algae project, and most of that investment relates to the infrastructure for cultivation. They’re financing everything with their own funds, without any debts, and the plan is to close the investment next year and place everything on the market.
In addition to swimming pools, accompanying equipment and of course research and development, they also invested in digging wells, after obtaining a concession from Hrvatske vode/Croatian Water. “We didn’t even know that the water we have from the well would turn out to be ideal for growing chlorella vulgaris, which is a natural water purifier. We proved that ourselves after comparative analyses were done at the Andrija Štampar Public Health Institute.
An opportunity for small family businesses and serious investors alike
In Croatia, we have the perfect combination for the development of this type of green technology and a great perspective to become a leader in the cultivation of this microalgae,” Dutković said. It’s precisely because of that that he wants to inspire other investors. By networking in clusters and with good communication, placement is also possible for small growers, which is an opportunity for a family business, as well as for serious investors, he revealed.
In order for this microalgae to retain its properties as much as possible, they wanted to preserve it without dehydration, which is a common method of processing chlorella vulgaris that is sold in powder form. They succeeded in doing just that. It has also been shown that cultivation outdoors in open pools reduces the investment amount by ten times compared to cultivation processes done in tubes. It also increases the yield by ten times. That’s why the return on investment in this type of cultivation is a period spanning from three to four years, claimed Dutković.
A process that can clean Zagreb’s problematic air
The first product for which algae has been collected is a bio-stimulant for the agriculture sector. It’s an ecological solution for improving the soil for growing agricultural crops, which fully fits into the EU-wide policy of reducing the use of pesticides. It is a product that they themselves tested out on the cultivation of hemp with excellent results, and the product should be on the market in one month at the latest.
Contracts between the Croatian World of Algae project and customers in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are already ready for this. Unfortunately, the Croatian market is late to the party and has yet to develop and increase its level of awareness of the advantages of this type of production. Next in line will be a functional drink, water enriched with fresh algae, which could hit the market as early as next spring.
Functional water for pets is also currently under development, which is in the testing phase. The latest product is in the middle of the development process, and it is a patent for refining and cleaning the air to be installed in cities, which will be sold under the commercial name Smart Green Bubble. Speaking more specifically, this is a glass pool with chlorella vulgaris algae inside it in the form of a 1.5 metre column. It boasts an LED screen on which data and information about the algae are displayed, a bench to sit on and ports for charging mobile phones.
The device shows the result, that is, it measures how much carbon dioxide it took from the air, and how much oxygen it then released. When grown and kept in optimal conditions, this type of algae takes three times more carbon dioxide from the air than forests do. Dutković revealed that they have already started presenting their incredible device to cities, and are in negotiations for installation in both Zagreb and nearby Zaprešić.