prof. dr. ir. Vlaeminck Siegfried
Tomatoes cultivated with fertilizers based on microalgae are more colorful and taste sweeter than traditionally grown tomatoes.
In crop cultivation and the production of animal products in Flanders, 86% of the added fertilizers end up in waste flows - in water or in the atmosphere - causing environmental problems. Our research team experimented with recuperating fertilizers from waste flows and from human urine, which contains fertilizing substances. Urine contains nitrogen and phosphor in concentrated form. We succeeded in turning human urine into a nutrient solution suitable to cultivate microalgae. Microalgae are full of proteins, which makes them valuable biological fertilizers. The microalgae were used to grow the tomatoes, with remarkable effects: the greenhouse tests showed that the algae tomatoes contain 30% more sugar substances and 70% more natural color pigments than standard tomatoes. This makes them redder and sweeter. The results are valuable for farming but also piqued the interest of the European Space Agency, as they offer perspectives for the cultivation of food on the moon or during a manned mission to Mars. Researchers plan to continue developing the project, together with industrial partners.