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Algae can provide a breakthrough for food and energy supplies

Algae can provide a breakthrough for food and energy supplies

What does Wageningen have to offer us for the future? Which new plans and developments are making the hearts of eight discerning scientists beat faster? An article written by Hans Wolkers and illustrated by Jorris Verboon, published by Wageningen World, 2018 (1), includes the views of scientifics working in different fields.

Here, the opinion of Maria Barbosa, Bioprocess Engineer, ‘Algae can provide a breakthrough for food and energy supplies’

‘Algae are the perfect plants. They are super-efficient, you can grow them in places where agriculture isn’t possible, and they contain lots of different valuable ingredients.

These microscopic plants could provide a breakthrough for our future food and energy supplies. Large expanses of forest are being felled for more farmland to cater for our need for food and biofuels, and that demand is only going to increase in future. Algae can take us a long way towards solving these problems.

Look at the production of oil-rich crops for biofuels. Algae produce six times as much oil per hectare as, say, oil palms. To provide the entire European transport sector with enough algae biofuel would only take an area the size of Portugal.

As a byproduct, we can harvest a vast amount of protein: more than 40 times the total quantity of soya protein imported annually by the EU. That could save our last primeval forests.

Algae also produce healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Together with algae protein, these can replace fishmeal and fish oil from wild fish in feed for farmed fish. To meet global demand would require an area the size of two of the larger Dutch provinces. I expect that by about five years’ time, all the omega-3 fatty acids in fish feed will be sourced from algae. That will make aquaculture a lot more sustainable.’

Beside other not mentioned uses, like fertilizers to be applied to different crops.



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