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Is Algae as a Food Source, the Future of Nutrition?

Algae as a good source on a spoon

Humans are generally omnivorous—relying on both meat and plant matter for sustenance. The United Nations projects that food production may need to increase 70% by 2050 to feed 2.5 billion additional humans. This is causing many private and public institutions to examine the future of health, sustainability, and the environment.  Investors, food makers, and scientists are now teaming up to create food from alternate sources. One of the areas they are considering lies in an unexpected living organism, algae nutrition. Is Algae as a food source a viable option for the future of mankind?

Algae as Food Source, Is it Just Another Alternative?

Bold Business is already reporting that our future menus may include items like tofu, insects and synthetic meat. In fact, insects are already consumed by billions of people as part of their daily meals. Now, Algae are also emerging as a viable alternative. Products like algae protein bars, algae chips, and algae smoothies are now in various markets across the globe. Some people describe the taste as “mossy,” while others enjoy its “vegetable” taste.

Algae Nutrition with a picture of a hand with algae as a food source
Algae Nutrition may Soon Impact your Nightly Dinner

But why algae as a food source? Algae turn out to be not as reliant on freshwater to grow and flourish. When farmers grow crops and raise livestock, they consume a whopping 70% of the earth’s available fresh water. Additionally, our meat consumption uses a huge chunk of the planet’s finite resources. Algae, on the other hand, can grow in ponds, oceans, and even aquariums. It’s packed with nutrients and requires very little resources just to grow. It could even grow in a desert!

Additionally, the average human dining habits these days are in some ways alarming. For example, data reveals that the average American man now consumes 100 grams of protein a day—nearly double the actual necessary amount. As such, alternatives like algae as a food source become not just an extra option but are becoming a necessity.

Algae Farming May Not Be so Mossy After All

Columbus, New Mexico, on the United States and Mexico border, is home to Green Stream Farms. This algae farm grows a specific strain of algae on a massive scale for wellness company Qualitas Health which produces iWi. With a territory of 900 acres, farm operation is all year round. iWi has 98 acres currently dedicated to algae farming, and we could only expect more.

What makes this algae farm and strain different? The farm’s specific algae strain boasts of a not-so-mossy flavor. Instead, their “green gold” tastes a bit salty.

“There are hundreds of thousands of strains of algae in the world and there is a subgroup of those that are stinky and slimy and gross, but there are lots that are not,” explained Rebecca White, VP of Operations at Qualitas Health, which produces iWi.

iWi’s strain, nannochloropsis, is now present in the company’s omega-3 and EPA supplements available on Amazon and the Vitamin Shoppe. At present, iWi is also developing delicious algae-based snacks and even prote4in powders. And it’s not what you’d imagine, so they’re pretty sure it may be the next big food trend.

Algae as a Food Source

“The protein we’re producing is not going to be green,” affirmed the company’s CEO Miguel Calatayud. He explained that adding their algae protein powders will be virtually undetectable when added to other foods. They are “not going to change the flavor.”

Calatayud predicts using algae “in every single food that you take on an everyday basis. [It] is going to be part of a regular food chain for us. It’s going to be a great thing for all of us and for our planet.”

The company’s strain is made up of 40% protein and can produce about seven times the amount of protein compared to soybeans cultivated on the same amount of land. Additionally, it also releases oxygen into the air (trivia: about half of the world’s oxygen comes from algae). “What we are building it’s 100% sustainable and 100% scalable,” he said. This could be the future of algae nutrition.

Algae Nutrition Ready for the Mainstream?

Qualitas Health is also developing the alGeepa line of omega-3 supplements through its partnership with H-E-B.

“You can find a lot more of these sorts of products, algae-based nutraceuticals, and different food products in Europe and in particular the Far East, but it’s starting to break through here,” explained John McGowen, the director of operations at Arizona State University’s Center for Algae Technology and Innovation. “With the iWi brand, in particular, they’ve got some good slick marketing coming out.”

“This is about reinventing how we feed people, it’s about extending resources,” said Rebecca White. “But I also understand that that’s not for everyone. You can’t just assume that people are going to want it. It’s got to taste good.”

Although algae as a food source are not yet widely popular, the tiny organism’s undeniably powerful potential can easily be seen. Algae nutrition is potentially a bold idea that could soon be coming to a table near you.

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