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posted by hubie on Saturday January 21, @05:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the soylent-green-meet-the-matrix dept.

Life on earth could not survive without seaweed and algae. Every second oxygen molecule that we inhale originates from them. In the future, they could also become an important food source:

Fraunhofer researchers are working on processes for commercial cultivation, as well as the extraction of many kinds of protein and other nutrients.

Dr. Ulrike Schmid-Staiger is group manager for Algae Biotechnology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart. For 25 years now, she has been perfecting the cultivation of microalgae in photobioreactors – transparent water tanks that supply the tiny organisms with light, CO2 and nutrients until they grow to form a thick green soup. Dr. Schmid-Staiger currently devotes most of her time to the marine Phaeodactylum tricornutum, which can generate particularly large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, and to Chlorella vulgaris, which feels most at home in ponds and brackish water and stands out thanks to its high protein content of around 50 percent. When suspended in water, neither alga is detectable to the naked eye.

"Compared to terrestrial plants, our algae contain around ten times the amount of valuable nutritious substances," declares Dr. Schmid-Staiger with pride. Every single cell contains the same rich mix of nutrients. Terrestrial plants, on the other hand, also have roots, stalks and leaves. The substances contained in the cells vary in the different parts of a plant – the protein content of a corn kernel is different to that of its leaves or roots. "I can make use of every part of the algal biomass we grow here. There is hardly any waste material," emphasizes Dr. Schmid-Staiger. And these are not the only advantages microalgae have to offer. For one thing, they grow much more quickly than their botanical, land-based cousins. While 1 hectare of farmland can yield around 30 tons of corn biomass, a photobioreactor with artificial lighting can yield up to 150 tons of algae from the same surface area.

[...] Up to now, microalgae have been sold in tablet form as a food supplement for the most part, while consumers and food industry stakeholders are more familiar with multi-celled marine macroalgae, or seaweed. Most people will have seen this in sushi, where nori, a savory/sweet seaweed, is used to wrap up rice and fish. However, while seaweed has been a dietary staple in the Asiatic world for centuries, Europeans are still dubious about this superfood. It is rarely served in the form of a salad or soup. Yet even consumers that avoid sushi have probably already eaten algae without realizing it, as alginates and carrageen are common food additives. Alginates are often used as a gelatin substitute, while carrageen is added to products such as cream to prevent flocculation and ensure even fat distribution.

Originally spotted on The Eponymous Pickle.

Previously: Microalgae Promise Abundant Healthy Food and Feed in Any Environment


Original Submission

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Microalgae Promise Abundant Healthy Food and Feed in Any Environment 12 comments

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

The global food supply faces a range of threats including climate change, wars, pests and diseases. An organism too small for the human eye to see—microalgae—could offer some answers.

Feeding a growing world population that will, according to United Nations forecasts, reach 9.8 billion by 2050, and the need to conserve natural resources for generations to come may seem conflicting at first.

But a solution, while not yet in sight, is certainly not out of reach. European scientists recently have developed an appetite for microalgae, also called phytoplankton, a sub-group of algae consisting of unicellular photosynthetic microorganisms.

Most people are familiar with the largest form of algae, kelp or seaweed. It can grow up to three meters long and, in some forms, is a well-known delicacy. The related species microalgae, which can be found in both seawater and freshwater, have gained attention in research due to their extraordinary properties.

These microscopic organisms can be used for animal feed, particularly in aquaculture, and various foods including pasta, vegan sausages, energy bars, bakery products and vegetable creams.

[...] "Microalgae can be cultivated in many different locations, under very different conditions," said Massimo Castellari, who is involved in the Horizon-funded ProFuture project aimed at scaling up microalgae production. "We can grow it in Iceland and in a desert climate."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @07:14AM (13 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @07:14AM (#1287857)

    Roasted seaweed is an acquired taste
    I can't imagine what taste good chemicals would be in that stuff.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @08:50AM (10 children)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 21, @08:50AM (#1287864) Journal

      When seaweed is served in Japanese food - soups and sushi in particular - it appears to be very popular. I live in France and it is eaten in different ways here too. The Irish, French, Dutch and others farm it for a variety of purposes, including food. It is rich in vitamins and essential minerals while containing very few calories, cholesterol or fat. But it is full of flavour.

      If you don't like it roasted - don't roast it. There are lots of ways to prepare it:

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Saturday January 21, @09:19AM (9 children)

        by looorg (578) on Saturday January 21, @09:19AM (#1287867)

        I kind of like it, or don't mind it, in japanese food. I just don't see it as being a big part of western european cooking. It just doesn't seem to have a natural fit with mostly potatoes and pork/beef. Not sure what I would do with it. Sprinkle it on top of the dishes like some kind of garnish? That said I do know there are some local business here that gather/grow clean and dry Fucus Vesiculosus and use it as sort of seasoning on a lot of things. Not sure I would classify that as a staple dish or seasoning as of yet tho -- don't think onions, peppers and oregano have anything to fear as of yet.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @10:16AM

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 21, @10:16AM (#1287870) Journal

          The Welsh and Irish in particular have multiple recipes for preparing the different kinds of seaweed - look in the links. It is definitely not new in western European cooking.

          But I suppose people had reservations when they first started eating all sorts of vegetables.

        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by anubi on Saturday January 21, @11:23AM (7 children)

          by anubi (2828) on Saturday January 21, @11:23AM (#1287873) Journal

          Food to me is an acquired taste. I would not willingly eat what my cat eats, likewise, I often offer a bit of what I am eating to my cat, with similar outcome.

          I love Doritos. He doesn't.

          He likes lizard and mouse. I don't.

          Honestly, my understanding of actual nutritional needs of a mammal tells me my cat has the better deal. But I can't seem to get the idea of a mouse being considered as something to eat.

          My cat has no problem with it. But he flat won't eat my pasta. Nor potato. Or cucumber.

          Del Taco, my go to place for eats, recently ran all sorts of promos for fake meat. They gave me some. I ate it. I can't quite put my finger on it but it just doesn't taste quite right and have the requisite mouth feel, however they are getting damn close. I do have a sensitivity to beans and peas, which likely is screwing up my acceptance.

          I really want to jump past my love of meat, as I hate the thought my enjoyment of a meal is based on the execution of sentient animals.

          I've got some quinoa and am hopeful I can learn to prepare more eats that I enjoy that don't involve animal sacrifice. I've already switched a lot onto rice, sauces, and various peppers. It's not so much a greenie thing as much as my own woe of deriving my pleasure at the expense of the life of another sentient species, if I could derive it from plant based sources, which from the best of my knowledge, have no sentience.

          I think we are getting there, where we can manufacture anything for food. We already manufacture a lot of junk food, a lot of which I really enjoy eating, even though I know this stuff shouldn't be eaten. It's not food! But it sure tastes good.

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
          • (Score: 2) by looorg on Saturday January 21, @11:32AM (1 child)

            by looorg (578) on Saturday January 21, @11:32AM (#1287874)

            Did you try offering some of the fake DelTaco meat to your cat? I'm not sure our cats or dogs would touch such things with a 10 foot pole. I'm not sure it would even register as food to them. But I might be wrong, after all mice and bird and whatnot are apparently quite delicious to them.

            • (Score: 1) by anubi on Tuesday January 24, @07:56AM

              by anubi (2828) on Tuesday January 24, @07:56AM (#1288335) Journal

              If I am given another sample, I will keep it as an offering to my cat.

              So far, Bacos seem to be the only fake meat I much care for.

              --
              "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
          • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @12:23PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @12:23PM (#1287882)

            > am hopeful I can learn to prepare more eats that I enjoy that don't involve animal sacrifice.

            Do you have a copy of the old standby, "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappé? That book kept me alive when I was a (nearly) starving student (my dorm had kitchens).

            As far as your cat goes, I remember being taught that carnivores can't digest vegetable protein--but a quick search suggests that they can? Most of the search results came back with commercials for one food or another, but I'm guessing your cat knows what they like...

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Gaaark on Saturday January 21, @03:04PM (3 children)

            by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 21, @03:04PM (#1287904) Journal

            He likes lizard and mouse. I don't.

            How do you know? I'd try lizard. Mouse: it would probably have to be a 'farm raised' mouse (more chance of being disease free, hopefully), but i'd try it.

            Dormouse used to be (and still is) popular: "The edible dormouse is very similar to squirrel, with a rich, greasy flavor and only a few mouthfuls of meat on each one."
            https://www.atlasobscura.com/foods/edible-dormouse [atlasobscura.com]

            It's the squeamish-ness of it, but you can 'stomach' that down: i've eaten baked and live mealworms (larval form of the (fascinatingly named) Darkling Beetle). Baked, they taste just like popcorn; live, they are chewy and chewy and chewy and never seem to disappear.

            A starving person will eat anything, even another starving person.

            But i know what you were saying: just me being pedantic. ;)

            --
            --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
            • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @11:35PM (2 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @11:35PM (#1287967)

              Pedantic, yes, but also open to our honest reaction to a change.

              When I read the contents of what was in the commercial cat food, there was a bunch of filler in a lot of it. When I prepare my rice based teriyaki chicken, I will share it with my cat who seems to like it too.

              I did get taken at one of those dollar stores on canned cat food. Brand I had never seen. 100% chicken. Organic. (And inexpensive too). 25¢/can. I bought four. It looked like cat food, even had that odor that cats seem to love but makes me wanna puke. Cat took one bite, dropped it back out, then looked at me with the most puzzled look on its face.

              I fished through the cat food and discovered why.

              It was indeed 100% chicken. Feathers! Boiled and pureed. So it was all mushy and limp. I confirmed it with my microscope. Yup. Feathers!

              The cat food I had seen before was mostly pureed offal, bones, plus some grains, probably for texture.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, @05:27AM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, @05:27AM (#1288019)

                This is my experience with the super cheap cat and dog food to. The exchange usually goes something like this; They'll walk up to the bowl, they would take a whiff of it, after all they like smelling things. Then they might poke or claw at it a bit just to see if it's alive or they can get some more smell out of it. Sometime they taste it first but then comes the inevitable hungry cat noise all while giving me that "what the fuck is this"-look, followed by the "dude where is my food"-look and then I imagine if they'll be wondering if we have some of that other discount dry food stuff we tried once cause it probably wasn't so bad after all compared to this. If they even taste it as noted it comes back out again. I don't think we bought anything so far that was all feathers or feather-mix-mush. I am not sure they would even taste it or put it in their mouth most of the time, if they did I'm sure they would feel tricked and they would be very displeased. I imagine the reaction would be similar to various fake-meats etc. It's not that they are particularly picky eaters, they usually eat leftovers and scraps and such. But even they have their limits with the fake-stuff. If this came into the rotation I imagine I would just be finding a lot more dead mice and birds around as they go on their hunting trips, not sure what the dogs would do but eventually they would probably do something about it to.

                • (Score: 1) by anubi on Sunday January 22, @10:47AM

                  by anubi (2828) on Sunday January 22, @10:47AM (#1288048) Journal

                  Interesting to see others reaction to it. Somehow just the thought of soldier fly larvae, cockroach, and other bugs on my dinner plate trips off my gag reflex.

                  I remember a TV show where contestants would drink a cockroach shake out of a blender.

                  It has taken me five tries to type this, interspersed with involuntary gagging. It's definitely a psychosomatic reaction. Just the thought of it triggers a gag reflex. Had this been for real, I would have demonstrated an overunity mass gain on the dinner plate.

                  --
                  "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @12:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, @12:36PM (#1287883)

      > "Compared to terrestrial plants, our algae contain around ten times the amount of valuable nutritious substances,"

      What is slightly worrying about this is mono-culture. From the wording of tfa it seems the research is focusing on developing just one strain with high yields. While this is probably years in the future, should humanity become dependent on algae, it would be a lot more sensible to have some options...for when the algae plague (red tide anyone?) strikes.

      Also, wouldn't it make more sense to use algae as food for something more tasty? That was one approach taken by the researchers on Cape Cod, MA, USA at New Alchemy Institute https://newalchemists.net/portfolio/aquaculture/ [newalchemists.net] Page down to see various food producing schemes, some using algae to feed fish, and also fertilize suitable crops. With some friends, I visited in the 1970s, things were growing there in all sorts of amazing ways!

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday January 21, @02:26PM

      by HiThere (866) on Saturday January 21, @02:26PM (#1287894) Journal

      I don't know what you've eaten, but most of the preparations of seaweed I've had were basically without flavor. The exception was a bright green salady kind of thing (forget its name) which was quite good, but which I *did* discover had a bunch of sugar added. The roasted sea weed was essentially without flavor, and was just used to hold the sushi together.

      OTOH, things that were specifically algae were rather horrible. They were extremely salty, so I guess they were seaweed, but I can't imagine why anything that salty was called a "health food".

      HOWEVER, that's not what I think he's talking about. I think he's talking about using the algae as base ingredients from which the desired components are extracted. It will probably bear about as much relationship to algae as beer does to wheat.

      --
      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
  • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Saturday January 21, @12:59PM

    by canopic jug (3949) on Saturday January 21, @12:59PM (#1287886) Journal
    --
    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Saturday January 21, @02:22PM

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday January 21, @02:22PM (#1287893) Homepage Journal

    Kurt Vonnegut's fiction [mcgrewbooks.com] had us eating seaweed twenty years ago because of overpopulation.

    Why now? Unlike the folks in the imaginations of 20th century SF writers, there is no food shortage. Today, thanks mostly to technology, all hunger is the result of greed and politics. Methinks somebody saw easy money somehow.

    --
    Older than dirt? Kid, I was a BETA TESTER for dirt! We never did get all the bugs out.
  • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Saturday January 21, @04:08PM (2 children)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Saturday January 21, @04:08PM (#1287913) Journal

    More than just food, algae also contribute a tremendous amount of the planet's atmospheric oxygen; i think i remember hearing something on the order of about 2/3 of it? It's to the point that artificially fertilizing the far-out oceans to encourage blue-green algal growth has been proposed as a geoengineering solution...and, considering the other proposals, that one might be the least horrible if it goes wrong!

    That said, I doubt anyone's going to be eating bulk algae. More likely this will be rendered down for its protein content and, depending on the species, omega-3 fatty acids (no, they don't come from fish, fish get them from their algal diet!). I would not be opposed to a sort of taco meat or chilli meat made from algal protein, so long as it's minimally processed and not loaded up with unnecessary chemicals.

    --
    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @04:21PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 21, @04:21PM (#1287917) Journal

      i think i remember hearing something on the order of about 2/3 of it?

      Every second oxygen molecule that we inhale originates from them

      You might recall reading it from TFS at the top of the page? But your figures are somewhat higher so it may well have been a different source.

      I wouldn't say that seaweed makes a significant portion of my diet but I do eat it fairly regularly.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, @02:33AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, @02:33AM (#1287999)

      The limiting nutrient in mid-ocean is actually iron. The major source is meteorite dust.
      If the warmists were serious about climate change 100,000 tons of bio-available iron scattered across the Pacific and Atlantic each year would fix it.
      It would also massively increase the amount we could sustainably harvest, and reduce the impact of microplastics.

      Given the scale of things the human race operates at, 100 KT is tiny. But it won't be done, because it would still be locally expensive and the benefit would be global. Tragedy of the commons strikes again.

  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Sunday January 22, @06:08PM

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Sunday January 22, @06:08PM (#1288065)

    Happy to dig in. But it does need to be available, and at a price that is comparable to cheap veg (e.g. a bag of carrots costs £0.50 per kg in UK, green veg a bit more than £1.00 per kg). Seaweed, meanwhile, seems to come in at about £100 per kg (so about 10 x more expensive than beef).

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