Taiwan Cement Corp (台泥), the nation’s leading cement supplier, yesterday announced plans to expand its microalgae farm, which produces astaxanthin, a key ingredient in high-priced skincare products.
The expanded plant is expected to become operational in the first half of next year, Taiwan Cement chairman Leslie Koo (辜成允) told reporters on the sidelines of a media event with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院).
The 70-year-old cement maker is to invest NT$200 million (US$6.25 million) to expand its existing microalgae center into a 20 hectare outdoor microalgae farm, with an estimated annual production value of about NT$400 million, the company said.
After the new farm begins operations next year, the company hopes to make astaxanthin products that meet universal standards, such as the Good Manufacturing Practice standard, Koo added.
“We foresee Taiwan Cement being the nation’s main astaxanthin supplier. Local beauty product manufacturers will no longer need to import the material,” Koo said.
Not only would the expanded microalgae farm produce astaxanthin, it would decrease carbon dioxide levels by 4,800 tonnes per year by using the ITRI and Taiwan Cement’s carbon capture technology, Koo said.
The company began developing carbon capture techniques with the ITRI in 2011. The two parties discovered that captured carbon dioxide can be used to grow microalgae, also an important constituent of biofuels.
In 2014, the world-leading technology won an R&D 100 Award, widely recognized as the “Oscars of innovation.”
In light of the business potential of growing astaxanthin, Taiwan Cement and the ITRI signed a contract to extend their technical cooperation, aiming to make growing microalgae a real business opportunity.
The focus of the cooperation is to help Taiwan Cement expand its production of astaxanthin. By stepping into the value chain of the biotech industry, a circular economy could be established, turning waste into renewable resources, ITRI president Liu Jonq-min (劉仲明) said.
Taiwan Cement is seeking more partners, such as Tsinghua University (清華大學), to enhance its innovative capabilities, Koo said.
Taiwan Cement shares gained 0.28 percent to close at NT$35.6 in Taipei trading yesterday, underperforming the TAIEX, which rose 0.3 percent.
Taiwan Cement to expand microalgae production