Organic Nutraceutical Farm

Place: Ancona, italy, Europe
Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health
Total Budget: € 150.000,00 | Period: From January 2014 To


An industrial multi-output plant operating on two sides offering both services and products. The service is addressed to Olive Oil Mills, and it offers the collection and purification of large amounts of pollutant olive mill WW resulting from olive oil production. The products, namely potable water, microalgae, and organic/inorganic fertilizer will result from the depuration of the same WW since the filtrating process separates 3 streams: water, organic and inorganic fractions composed by phosphates, nitrates and phenols normally present in the WW and responsible for its highly pollutant properties.As part of the service offered to mills, the potable water obtained from the filtrating process will represent an alternate source of water supply within a resource-efficient and cost-effective framework, avoiding water losses and waste.The harvested algal biomass will be the main ingredient for functional food, nutraceutical products or dietary supplements.


GreenTech s.r.l. - Italy

Lead applicant

GreenTech s.r.l. is a research company operating in the sustainable energy sector. It develops, produces and sells sustainable conversion systems, and systems for the management and accumulation of electricity, thermic and refrigerating energy. The company was established as an academic spin-off by a group of researchers affiliated with the Department of Industrial Engineering and Mathematics of the Marche Region University of Technology, in Italy. Currently, the company is developing photobioreactor plants on an industrial scale, with the double objective of producing high-value solutions for biogas cogeneration plants, and of realizing and selling one or more sub-products resulting from the obtained biomass (microalgae).

GEL Hydrotechnology for Lige - Italy

Initiative partner

GEL have been operating in water treatment since 1979 with experience and professional competence recognized by the best operators and engineers in the field. The equipment designed and produced by GEL is the result of the technological evolution and made with materials suitable for contact with potable water by observing the regulations in force. Research and formulation of chemicals are inspired by the utmost strictness and environmental respect. A qualified Technical Assistance Service is kept constantly up to date through specific training sessions. Among the services for customers: • Analysis laboratory for internal use for chemical-physical water analysis. • Permanent Training Centre to boost the professional growth of partners, co-operators, Technical Assistance Service. • Engineering services for domestic and industrial systems. • Check of the operation of existing systems and adjustment to regulations in force. • Supply of "turnkey" systems. • Management of treatment system

Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona - Italy

Initiative partner

formazione e ricerca

Organic Nutraceutical Farm: Retrieving and reusing waste waters for nutraceutilcal purposes The olive oil supply chain produces a considerable amount of polluting waste and wastewaters. Our idea, still at its pilot stage, springs from the desire to givevalue to those wastes and to transform them into the starting point for the production of new functional ingredients with high benefits. ONF offers both services and products: to olive oil mills, it offers a techno-ecologic innovation for the disposal of wastewaters (WW) and the collection of pure water, while it addresses the food industry and final consumers with food enriched with functional, antioxidant ingredients, along with vitamin, protein and essential fatty acids supplements. These ingredients will result from the organic cultivation of microalgae such as Spirulina, fed using one of the streams obtained from the WW instead of raw materials, and without using any chemicals. The entire process will be eco-sustainable.

The innovation is the process itself!

We chose already existent and consolidated technologies, like the filtrating membranes and the thin-layer in which to grow microalgae, and we conjugated them creating a mechanism that is able to transform a polluting output (WW) into raw materials, a fundamental input in the process of growing microalgae.

The so cultivated Spirulina can be used without further processing, or as a functional ingredient for the nutraceutics market.

Thanks to ONF, two different food supply chains will be improved using the same tool: the disposal of WW will minimize the production of waste and management costs, while the produced Spirulina – one of the most promising organism from the benefit content viewpoint – will be 100% made in Italy and can easily grow without input coming from raw materials.

Filtration Membranes Three membranes for microfiltration, ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis will constitute the filtration part of the plant. The waste waters to treat will pass through them and will be separated in three streams: pure water, organic stream, inorganic stream.
Photobioreactor Our first photobioreactor, inside of which we let the microalgae grow thanks to the addition of nutrients and salts. At regular intervals, we harvest a percentage of biomass and we re-add the growth medium so that the culture can regenerate itself spontaneously. This system allowed us to test the growth speed and quality of our Spirulina. This system allowed us to test the growth speed and quality of our Spirulina.
Rendering of the ponds Rendering of the thin layer designed for microalgae growth. Every pond will be provided with a greenhouse that will be used to regulare temperature and light exposure and will make the layer suitable for every climate condition.

500.000 tons olive oil are produced every year in Italy, with a subsequent intense use of potable water.

Depending on the type of processing method, the volume of WW produced by Italian olive mills ranges between 33% and 110% of processed olives mass, and is currently disposed through controlled spreading on cultivated fields.

This habit is dangerous for the environment because of the WW’s high polluting charge, especially when it exceeds the legal limits.

On the other hand, the depuration of even a minimum amount of WW represents a relevant cost for mills.

Interest in nutritional and antioxidant properties of microalgae is growing worldwide, as the allocation of specific European funds addressed to microalgae biotechnologies also demonstrates.

For their nutritional characteristics, microalgae are considered to be a superfood, capable of growing at a speed rate 20 times higher compared to traditional cultivations.

ONF thin-layer Eng. Duilio Guetti talks about the system ONF uses to grow Spirulina.
What is Spirulina Alessandra Norici, PhD in algal physiology, talks about Spirulina and its healthy properties.

The project is currently at its development stage, but we have already seen the first results.

ONF was first developed by the university spin-off GreenTech s.r.l, which thanks to the project has been able to hire young talents and to contribute to the research in the field of microalgae.

The same spin-off has been included in the first enterprise incubator of the Marche Region in Italy, JCube, which allowed the construction and successful testing of a first Spirulina cultivation.

Moreover, we are relating with a local mill that agreed to the installation and testing of a pilot plant is its land: the results will then be evaluated by the mill itself.

The partnership with GEL, a leading company in the water depuration field, will allow us to go further in the experimentation and research of the best filtrating membranes.

So far the most satisfying results have been recorded in the field of research and development, thanks also to the team of experts of UnivPM.

The main beneficiaries of the project are olive oil mills owners, who often find it hard to cover for the expenses of wastewaters disposal.

ONF will take charge of the purifying process and will give back to the mills a considerable amount of potable water to be reused in the productive process, thus meeting the need of a market which is every day more concerned about environmentally-friendly system of food production and processing.

The second group of beneficiaries is represented by those food companies that are looking for alternative functional ingredients, tracked along the entire supply chain and in order to use them for functional food production.

There is also a third group of beneficiaries, that are consumers looking for food in line with their health and welfare requirements.

Categories such as sportsmen or people who, by choice or need, follow special diets not containing some nutritive elements, are likely to take advantage of the added microalgae biomass in everyday food.

Spirulina and Sport Two Italian personal trainers tell us why they regularly take Spirulina.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Document 1: WW treatment costs .
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Document 2: Benefits of Spirulina .
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Document 3: Spirulina sales .

People are the key for ONF's success.

Our partnership involves three teams with different skills: GreenTech and GEL staffs count in total 14 people, professionals and PhDs operating in the engineering, industrial, marketing, biology and communication fields.

They are supported by the four members of UnivPM, professors and researchers that gives ONF the research support it needs.

Our structure is flat, there is no hierarchy: everybody is in charge of something and we work in synergy.

Of course, we have an advisory board, which is constituted by UnivPM and GreenTech members.

GreenTech Staff at work Three members of GreenTech Staff testing a prototype.

The main hardship we had to face, still not completely overcome, was the lack of sufficient funds to create an integrated pilot plant.

The initial support of UnivPM allowed us to start the activities and to use the laboratories for the microalgal cultivation, but we soon decided to look for external funds through the application for competition notices or contests.

We successfully passed some of them, and with the obtained funds, we covered for the first needs.

We also applied for two Regional contests named Sostegno e Sviluppo d’Impresa and Smart Energy Home Marche, which allowed us to hire a researcher and a sales expert, while a special partnership within Universities and companies allowed the collaboration with a PhD student researching on internationalization and marketing. We are currently looking for funding in order to build a pilot plant, but we had implemented our staff with people having different and complementary skills, broadening our contacts’ net.

ONF allows the environmentally friendly production of olive oil and Spirulina, minimizing the immissions of pollutants in the environment.

Every 1000Kg of olives, from 0.5 to 2m3  of WW are produced.

When those WW are spread on the soil, they damage its biodiversity, making it not anymore suitable for new cultures.

ONF transforms 75% of WW into reusable pure water: this process helps to preserve local water resources and answer to the growing need for potable water in the Mediterranean area.

Microalgae, apart from growing thanks to the nutrients that we are able to obtain from WW, do the photosynthesis process, which takes CO2 from the atmosphere and releases oxygen. Moreover, the algal biomass is cultivated from a waste and not from raw materials.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Environmental Impact .

Our project is in its developing phase, so it constantly generates results.

All the tests we have run and the continuous research allow us to be certain about the feasibility and the optimal result of the future production plant. We love that our idea grows with us and with our activities.

ONF will work during the harvesting and pressing season of olives, but after that period, it can be used to purify other liquid wastes coming from the food sectors; minimum adjustments will be required and ONF will work during the entire year.

Moreover, Spirulina is not the only cultivable microalgae: the system will be modular allowing us to grow the microalgae that best suits the food we want to enrich (e.g. Chlorella).

ONF is a work-in-progress project towards the food security; in addition, the resulting products will be natural and organic.

We believe that in small, expanding realities like ours it is still possible to give great importance to face-to-face communication, meeting people in person, showing results and using the share of voice.

It is for this reason that a great part of our communication activity is done through meetings, conferences, info points and direct communication like emails and phone calls.

Re-evaluating dialogues and opinion exchanges, we let our project grow and we spread our ideas through our website, facebook page, scientific magazines etc.

Basically, we are the first testimonials of our experience. Next steps will be the creation of profiles on different social networks, the opening of a blog and other communication activities in line with an online marketing campaign.

GreenTech @Open Day JCube GreenTech staff presents the outputs of ONF in occasion of JCube Open Day, during a special event named "Next Food".