Making aquaculture sustainable with microalgae

Japanese Hirono Suzuki’s research on cold-adapted microalgae recently won her the award for best master’s student in biology and aquaculture at Nord University.

Per Jarl Elle

​Hirono Suzuki studied ocean science at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology for her bachelor's degree. She decided to specialize in microalgal biotechnology at Nord University after spending a year in Bodø on student exchange.

Starting her PhD fellowship

Hirono presented her thesis «Growth and LC-PUFA production of the cold- adopted microalgae Koliella antarchtica in photobioreactors» in May.

In August, Hirono Suzuki will commence a PhD fellowship at Nord University’s Faculty of Biosciences and Aquaculture.

Small organism with big potential

In her master’s thesis, Hirono Suzuki investigated lipid (fatty acids) production by microalgae adapted to colder climates.

Cold-adapted microalgae, which present a new and potentially plentiful source of fatty acids, could transform aquaculture on a global scale. However, commercial-scale microalgae productions have only been implemented in warmer regions, largely because commonly used microalgae thrives at higher temperatures (+26°C).

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Awarded. Hirono Suzuki, now embarking on a PhD-study at Nord University, won the award as the best masterstudent of the Faculty of Biosciences and Aquacuture in 2018 (photo: Per Jarl Elle, Nord University).  

Microalgae are single-cell microorganisms found in many different environments, from arid deserts to glaciers. Microalgae grow rapidly, sourcing their energy from sunlight and CO2, which they convert to oxygen, protein, lipids and pigments. In nature, microalgae provide important nutrients within food chains, but they also present significant opportunities within biotechnology.

Fatty acids for fish feed

Cold-adapted microalgae, from glaciers, sea ice, polar and alpine regions, can contain high amounts of omega-3 and so-called long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids or LC-PUFAs.  These fatty acids are an important ingredient in the fish feed used in aquaculture.

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Aquafeed from microalgae. - Fatty acids in microalgae are feed alternatives in the aquaculture industry, says Hirono Suzuki (photo: Per Jarl Elle, Nord University).


- Omega-3 fatty acids and LC-PUFAs are important for both humans and aquaculture species such as Atlantic salmon. Current fish feed production utilises fish oil. However, fish oil originates from wild fish and is a limited resource. Producing these fatty acids from microalgae can help improve feed quality and the sustainability of aquaculture industry, says Hirono.

Helping microalgae thrive

To enable microalgae production in cold regions, Hirono was grew selected cold-adapted microalgae from polar regions in laboratory-scale photo bioreactors under conditions that optimized lipid production, including adjusting salinity and light intensity. 

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Growing microalgae. Photo bioreactors are essential laboratory equipments in microalgae research (photo: Hirono Suzuki).
Hirono is working under the supervision of post-doctoral fellow Chris Hulatt, who holds an EU Marie Curie Sklódowska Grant, with additional supervision from Professor Kiron Viswanath (Nord University), and Professor René Wijffels (Wageningen University).

Per Jarl Elle