QUT researcher Dr Carlos Horacio Luna-Flores has started his Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship in collaboration with a world-leading biotechnology company specialising in high quality animal feed supplements.
Dr Luna-Flores and his team are working with Bioproton to develop sustainable astaxanthin, an antioxidant used extensively in the animal feed and aquaculture industries.
“Astaxanthin has health promoting properties that can help animals to cope with natural stressors such as heat, drought, freezing, or microbial or insect attack,” said Dr Luna-Flores.
In nature, the species of yeast called Phaffia rhodozyma produces low yields of astaxanthin, and is found in some marine animals including salmon, trout, krill and shrimp.
“These marine animals cannot synthesise astaxanthin de-novo, so when aqua-cultivated this pigment needs to be incorporated in their diet to obtain their characteristic pink hue," said Dr Luna Flores.
“This particularity has opened a multi-million market for astaxanthin production in which natural and sustainable sources are preferred.”
Synthetic astaxanthin is mainly produced from unsustainable petrochemicals, but Dr Luna-Flores hopes to change this through a natural yeast-based production method.
“The expected outcome of this project is to develop yeast strains with commercial potential to produce astaxanthin at an industrial scale using local and low-cost carbon sources,” said Dr Luna-Flores.
He explains how this research will help drought-affected farmers, as well as the wider community.
“The yeast-based production of astaxanthin will benefit farmers by having a natural and sustainable source of astaxanthin, and will benefit the public through organic and safe astaxanthin-rich foods.”
Alongside Dr Luna-Flores, another ten QUT researchers have been awarded funding to advance their research thanks to the State Government’s Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships.