Mixotrophic cultivation of microalgae is an efficient nutrient recovery strategy in autumns and winters


Eutrophication, due to nutrient discharge from wastewater into the environment, results in damages to the ecological systems. Nutrient recovery is required to reduce eutrophication and to utilize wastewater as resources in sustainability.

Microalgae, microscopic photosynthetic organisms, efficiently take up nutrients and CO2 into their biomass via their metabolism. By cultivating microalgae in wastewater with a supply of flue gas, the culture recovers nutrients from wastewater and uses the CO2 from flue gas. Microalgal bioremediation is more efficient than plant methods, as microalgae grow faster than plants higher up in the food web, and are highly adaptable to various types of wastewater. Microalgae is also preferred to bacterial methods as it produces valuable algal biomass as by-product. Algal biomass, rich in lipids, carbohydrates and proteins, serves as biofuel feedstock or animal feed.

Microalgae are highly versatile in their metabolism. Some are “photoautotrophic,” meaning that, like plants, they use light as energy and CO2 as a carbon source in photosynthesis. “Heterotrophic” microalgae, like many bacteria, use dissolved organic substance as the energy and carbon source for their metabolism. Finally, “mixotrophic” microalgae are capable of both photoautotrophic and heterotrophic types of metabolism.

During autumn and winter in Northern countries, light intensity is low and daytime is short, resulting in lower photoautotrophic production than in spring and summer. Mixotrophic metabolism, which supplies more energy for microalgae by organic carbon addition, can compensate for the photoautotrophic growth reduction in autumns and winters.

In this case study, we investigate the nutrient recovery by mixotrophic algae cultivation in landfill leachate (nitrogen fertilizer) mixed with dairy wastewater (phosphorus and organic carbon sources) in high rate algal ponds in winters and autumns. The algal ponds (see the photo) are 1 cubic meter and located in a green house in the backyard of KalmarEnergi in Moskogen where flue gas and leachate are readily available. This mixotrophic mode showed higher nutrient removal rate than photoautotrophic culture in similar cultivation conditions.

-Quyen Nham



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Cleaning the Water

Location: Moskogen, Kalmar

At Moskogen, a landfill in Kalmar, Sweden, nutrient-rich leachate water runs into a reservoir. We examine the potential of micro algae to clean nitrogen from the water. Algal production is supported by the CO2 produced by the Kalmar Energi power plant, also located in Moskogen.
Phosphorus is a biproduct of the renewable energy production (wood chips) and is used in the production of algal biomass, which can ultimately be turned into valuable bioproducts.

Contact person: Elin Lindehoff 

Team Algoland, hard at work setting up the algae pools at Moskogen Maurice Hirwa


Location: Mussel Farms, Hagby
Mussels grow in coastal areas and can act as a nutrient sink in the Baltic Sea with no added resources. Mussels filter seawater to obtain their natural food of choice: microalgae. Once the mussels have had their fill of microalgae, they are “harvested,” or collected from the sea, thus cleaning the water of excess nutrients. The biomass of algae-fed mussels can then be turned into useful resources, like animal feed.