January 9, 2012

Aurora Algae's green light to capital raising

aurora algae

Abundant sunlight means the algae grows quickly, doubling in volume in a day.

ONLY months after raising $22 million, Aurora Algae has its sights on raising a further $100 million as it seeks to commercialise algae harvesting and processing in Western Australia.

A 100-hectare operation is being developed, which is expected to be in production by the end of the year, with commercial product to be marketed from early 2013. By then, planning will be well advanced on the next stage, a 1000-hectare algae farm and processing facilities.

The venture is to produce biofuel and omega-3 from algae, with the residual matter to be used as biomass in the aquaculture sector, typically in fish or prawn farming in Asia.

Omega-3 is the high-value product that will underpin the project's expected fortunes.

Aurora Algae was attracted to Karratha, in Western Australia's north-west, by the abundant sunlight and saltwater, coupled with extensive cheap land, which more than compensates for the expensive labour and housing.

The abundant sunlight means the algae grows quickly - doubling in volume in a day - ensuring plentiful product for processing.

The last raising of $22 million, undertaken in August, has left the company fully funded until its next expansion phase.

The Karratha operation is expected to be progressively scaled up from the initial 100 hectares of commercial operation to 400 hectares in the next stage, and then 1000 hectares.

''The next phase will get us into profits,'' said Matthew Caspari, founder and managing director. ''It's highly scalable.''

The venture uses a large amount of marginal land, but being in Karratha enables it to take advantage of the improving infrastructure, thanks to the resources boom.

''It is easy to get things in and out, thanks to the resources industry,'' Mr Caspari said. ''The downside is labour is amazingly expensive and housing is amazingly expensive.''

The company has not provided any indication of likely production volumes as it scales up, but it will produce ''hundreds of tonnes of material a month; thousands of tonnes a year''.

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