LIFE ALGAECAN - Adding sustainability to the fruit and vegetable processing industry through solar-powered algal wastewater treatment

LIFE16 ENV/ES/000180

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Contact details:

Contact person: Dolores Hidalgo
Tel: 34983546504
Fax: 34983546521
Email: dolhid@cartif.es

Project description:


Europe is the world’s second biggest producer of fruit and vegetables. The sector accounts for 17% of total EU agricultural output value and involves approximately one million farms specialised in cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable processing is also a major industry. In 2013, an estimated 10 000 EU companies processed fruit and vegetables as their main activity, employing more than 280 000 people. Processing includes the preparation, preservation, canning, freezing and drying of fresh produce and the manufacture of fruit and vegetable juices.

Fruit and vegetable processing uses large quantities of water, as an ingredient, for cleaning produce, as an efficient transportation conveyor of raw materials and as the principal agent in sanitising plant machinery and areas. Processing activities generated an estimated 200 million m3 of wastewater in 2014.

The technical working group for the review of the reference document on Best Available Techniques for the Food, Drink and Milk Industries agreed in 2014 that emissions to water were the most pressing environmental issue in the fruit and vegetable processing sector. The working group agreed to collect data on wastewater emissions and on specific loads to better understand the environmental impact of the sector. Though water use will always be a part of fruit and vegetables processing, it has become the principal target for pollution prevention.


The LIFE ALGAECAN project will demonstrate the feasibility of applying solar-powered algal treatment to the effluents generated by fruit and vegetable processing.

The proposed treatment system will involve three main steps:

  • A two-phase microalgae growing system, which consumes the organic matter and nutrients contained in the effluent;
  • A separation step to recover the clean water (that will comply with reuse standards); and
  • A drying step to recover the dry microalgae as a valuable product that can used as a raw material to produce bio-fertilisers, animal feed and bioplastic.

    Part of the purified water will be used to dilute the input effluent and the rest will be used to water green areas around the demonstration facility, or for the cleaning of trucks and equipment. The system will be demonstrated at two facilities in Spain and Slovenia and the findings will be transferred to two additional facilities in Greece and Germany.

    The project results will support the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the Circular Economy Action Plan. In line with the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, this LIFE project’s concept for wastewater treatment envisages the use of renewable energy (solar and biomass) in order to minimise greenhouse emissions compared to standard treatment models.

    Expected results:

  • Treatment of at least 2 m3/day of wastewater from fruit and vegetables processing in a solar-powered prototype;
  • Production of a high-quality final effluent that is 100% free of pathogens and xenobiotic compounds;
  • An 80% reduction in the cost of treating wastewater from fruit and vegetables processing;
  • A 100% reduction in the environmental impact linked to the generation of waste sludge in aerobic treatment systems and the common practice of landfill disposal. Savings of 1.15 kilogrammes CO2 equivalent per kg of sludge avoided;
  • A 100% reduction in nutrient losses associated with waste sludge generation in aerobic treatment systems;
  • Demonstration of a technology that is replicable independent of the location and the product processed;
  • Establishment of operating prototypes at sites in Spain and Slovenia;
  • Publication of two replication studies for transferring the project findings to facilities in Greece and Germany;
  • Proposals for full-scale implementation of the treatment at the two demonstration sites and at facilities in Greece and Germany; and
  • Completion of two studies on the use of microalgae in animal feed and bio-fertilisers,



Environmental issues addressed:


Industry-Production - Food and Beverages
Water - Waste water treatment


fertiliser‚  waste water treatment‚  water reuse

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 91/271 - Urban waste water treatment (21.05.1991)
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Fundacin CARTIF
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The CARTIF Foundation is a Spanish applied research centre that works to identify technology needs, develop R&D-based knowledge and support technological innovation in industry. CARTIF is active in several national and international networks and platforms.
Partners VIPI, podjetje za proizvodnjo pijač, Slovenia Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany HUERCASA 5ªGAMA S.A., Spain National Technical University of Athens, Greece AlgEn, algen technology center, limited liability company, Slovenia


Project reference LIFE16 ENV/ES/000180
Duration 02-OCT-2017 to 30-SEP -2021
Total budget 1,728,018.00 €
EU contribution 1,033,569.00 €
Project location Castilla-León(España)


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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version