Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis
is commercially produced in a two-stage process, involving green vegetative (macrozooid) and red aplanospore stages. This approach has been scaled up to an industrial process but constraints limit its commercial success and profitability, including: contamination issues, high pigment extraction costs, requirements for high light levels and photo-bleaching in the red stage. However, in addition to the aplanospore stage, this alga can produce astaxanthin in vegetative palmelloid and motile macrozooid cells. In this study, a two-stage process utilising different media in the green stage, with subsequent re-suspension in medium without nitrate was employed to optimise the formation of red motile macrozooids. Optimal growth in the green phase was obtained on cultivation under mixotrophic conditions in EG:JM media followed by re-suspension in medium without nitrate resulting in red motile macrozooids with an astaxanthin content of 2.74% (78.4% of total carotenoids) and a lipid content of 35.3% (rich in unsaturated fatty acids. It is envisaged that the red motile macrozooids could be harvested and fed as a whole-cell product directly in the animal feed and aquaculture sectors, or used as a blend of carotenoids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in nutraceutical products.
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