La Grange Company Turning Red Algae into Cosmetic Line
By ANDY BEHLEN – Fri, 29th Dec 2017
Folks driving west of La Grange on SH 71 at night may have noticed some strange purple lights coming from the old La Grange Dodge Dealership. One observer compared them to something out of a sci-fi movie. It’s not an alien invasion, but it is pretty high tech.
AlgEternal, a La Grange based algae farming enterprise, set up shop in the building about a year ago. Those purple lights are growing lamps for the company’s newest venture – Porphyridium cruentum, a strain of red algae the company plans to use in a line of cosmetics.
AlgEternal CEO David Ramjohn said that strain of red algae uses photosynthesis to harness the power of light at the ultraviolet end of the visible spectrum – hence the purple colored lamps. Those red algae produce a protective cell coating called sulfated polysaccharide, a moisturizing and UV-protective substance. AlgEternal has developed a process to harvest that material from red algae. The company is partnering with a manufacturer to produce a cosmetic line called AlgAllure.
Ramjophn described the cosmetic venture as “low-hanging fruit.” The company hopes the cosmetic line will provide operating revenue to fund bigger algae enterprises.
“For us, profit is not a four letter word, but we also want to do well by doing good,” Ramjohn said.
AlgEternal has concentrated on algae-based soil amendments since the company began. The company’s trademark product, Agtivate, claims to reinvigorate the microorganisms in soil essential for productive plant growth. He cited a study from Texas A&M University that showed the product can reduce fertilizer requirements on rice crops by 75 percent. The company is continuing tests on other grain crops and hay. Ramjohn said he expects to see similar results when those studies are complete.
Ramjohn said some other algae enterprises have financially failed in efforts to produce liquid fuels like gasoline from algae.
“Over 90 percent of our crude oil came from algae that was living millions of years ago,” Ramjohn said. “It just takes time, temperature and pressure. We can recreate that in a laboratory and turn living algae into crude oil that you can put straight into a refinery and make gasoline. However, it costs much more than $2 a gallon to do that. I can’t compete with Murphy’s gas station, but I can sell soil amendments for $225 a gallon.”
Ramjohn said he sees biofuels as a dying industry. “I believe the internal combustion engine will be obsolete in 40 to 50 years,” Ramjohn said. “We’re already seeing it today. Look at what Elon Musk and Tesla are doing with electric cars, and they just rolled out their first electric 18-wheeler.”
More importantly, he said, industries will need to find new sources for plastics, which algae can provide. “We are essentially doing succession planning for a post-petroleum world,” Ramjohn said. For more information about AlgEternal.
Source: The Fayette County Record