Microalgae used in ‘zero-waste’ wineries

Even the smallest wineries can transform waste into resources. Ca’ Foscari University of Venice has developed an eco-friendly process to make full use of wine lees (the residue of wine fermentation) and sludge resulting from wastewater treatment.

The innovative purification system is a combined bio-technological (anaerobic digestion and microalgae) system to be employed in the winery itself. The photobioreactor is optimised for the cultivation of a microalgae that can grow on non-diluted liquid digestate, reducing ammonia nitrogen concentration and producing biomass that can be used as a biostimulant or for energy purposes. The anaerobic transformation produces biogas that can also be used as an energy source

The researchers of this method are Ca’ Foscari professor Cristina Cavinato and Paolina Scarponi, a biotechnologist who during her PhD at Ca’ Foscari worked specifically on the development of this process.

“This circular economy process offers various advantages for wine producers,” says Cristina Cavinato. “Firstly, efficient waste treatment can be managed in situ, thus reducing disposal costs. Moreover, waste is used to create valuable products, and a phyto-purification process is applied to the water which re-enters the water cycle.”

During the testing phase of the patent, a winery (Serena Wines 1881 srl) collaborated with the researchers, providing the raw materials that were used to perfect this technology that recovers waste from wine production.

Author: Enrico Costa / Translator: Joangela Ceccon