Heterotrophic production of long chain omega-3 fatty acids utilizing algae and algae-like microorganisms
Although some interest in growing microalgae heterotrophically for the production of pigments was generated in the 1960s, only minimal commercial research was focused on this type of production technology until the 1980s. Recent developments indicating the nutritional and pharmaceutical importance of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the human diet have stimulated interest in microalgae as a source of these vital compounds, for they are the primary producers of these fatty acids in marine food webs. Food and pharmaceutical quality production can be enhanced both by the degree of process control and by the sterility achieved through a fermentation process, when compared to outdoor solar pond production. The data presented illustrate that microalgal-based heterotrophic production systems can exhibit omega-3 fatty acid productivities 2–3 orders of magnitude greater than those of outdoor pond systems. Additionally, long chain omega-3 fatty acid productivities reported for the microalgal fermentation systems are 1–2 orders of magnitude greater than productivities reported for fungal or bacterial systems.