Algae as alternative protein

Microorganisms, macro solutions

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Algae as alternative protein

Microorganisms, macro solutions

It is estimated that the world will need an extra 265 million tons of protein by the middle of the century, so the race is on to find sustainable alternative sources. One such source is algae. While the number of species is estimated to be as much as one million, currently just fifteen are used in food or feed.

With single-cell organisms such as dunaliella, spirulina or chlorella containing up to 70% protein, along with polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and beta-carotene, the potential for development is vast.

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Micro statistics

70%
Protein content
Some algae, such as such as spirulina, can consist of up to 70% protein.
300'000
Algae species
And some estimates put the number as high as 1 million.

Releasing the potential

While microalgae have long been a part of Asian cuisines in the form of seaweed and other dishes, only a tiny proportion are currently used for food. This means the potential for further development is huge. What is more, algae grow very quickly, and no arable land is required. Algae are cultivated in open ponds or closed systems with tubes, bags or tanks, and they take up very little space. Depending on the species, they can also be farmed in both warm and cold climates.

Our Aeroglide systems are already used in the manufacture of seaweed products for a number of South Asian customers, with dried seaweeds processed on Bühler roller mills in China. However, we are also looking at ways of integrating microalgae into other food products. One example is our partnership with startup Alverto to develop algae as an ingredient in pasta products with a protein content of more than 60%. We are also researching use of the wet grinding process in bread mills as a cost-efficient means of rupturing algae cell walls, an essential element of large-scale cultivation.

Microalgae could make a significant contribution to closing the upcoming protein gap. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 30 million tons of algae are produced each year worldwide. Efforts are currently underway to expand the market as the production is forecasted to grow.

Erika Georget, Project Leader Biotechnology

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