Microalgae represent one of the most interesting biological source, since they are relatively simple microorganisms containing high-value compounds with potential applications in numerous industrial sectors. The global nutraceutical market is well developed and with an enormous potential for growth: suffice to say that it has shown considerable growth with a value in 2016 between 168 and 174 billion euros, with a growth forecast that will allow it to reach between 285 and 313 billion euros in 2024.
In accordance with the National Center for Biotechnology Information, by 2050, microalgae will constitute ~18% of protein source among the more diverse market. Healthy properties and excellent nutritional values have been conferred to microalgae, with particular regard to the high content of carbohydrates, vitamins, carotenoids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The omega-3 PUFAs are extremely important throughout life and are a dietary need found predominantly in Nannochloropsis gaditana oleaginous microalga. In fact, although fish contain long-chain omega-3, they acquire PUFAs mainly from their microalgal diet. Additionally, considering depleting fish supplies, the use of microalgae as alternative raw material might be considered of increasing importance in the near future. Herein we report the assessment of the economic feasibility of an integrated process which allows to extract PUFAs from Nannochloropsis gaditana, by taking into account the main operational parameters able to influence the final products yield.