Algae Innovators 🌿 From Alternative Meats To Milks, Discover 70 Algae Startups Companies Innovating With Algae

Algae Innovators 🌿 From Alternative Meats To Milks, Discover 70 Algae Startups Companies Innovating With Algae

By
Nicola Spalding
May 3, 2021

Algae, one of the world’s first organisms, may be changing the world all over again. In our 2021 trends predictions, one contributor forecasted that “2021 is the year of the Seaweed revolution! Mark my words!” and we might have to agree.

These tiny aquatic organisms have been making big waves in the FoodTech scene lately, as startups, scientists, and multinationals like Nestlé, ADM and Bühler go all-in on algae.

Even the International Space Station is testing a bioreactor to convert the carbon dioxide produced by its astronauts into oxygen, and then using the algae to supplement the diets of those on board. You could say it's, out of this world

So, let’s take a closer look at why this microscopic stuff has such astronomic potential.

algae cultivation
Acres of saltwater pools in the desert growing algae for food consumption. Source: iWi Life

💡 Know your Macro from your Micro

Macroalgae - aka seaweed - can be harvested naturally or grown by aquaculture. Protein levels vary, but reach as high as 47% of the dry weight of red seaweed, comparable with proteins like chicken or plant isolates.

Nori – the green black edible packaging for our sushi – is probably the macroalgae that most regularly graces our plates. But its lesser-known cousins Kombu, Wakame and Dulse also have salty, rich, umami taste, with Dulse apparently taking on an almost bacon-like taste when cooked.

Seaweed is sustainable and scalable, with millions of tonnes produced in the ocean using no resources other than existing nutrients in the sea and sunlight. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing all the essential amino acids, vitamin B12, and lots of protein and fibre.

Microalgae on the other hand are single cell algae and are typically grown in freshwater tanks. The stars of the show here are Spirulina and Chlorella, each containing around 50 - 70% protein. There’s also duckweed (aka Lemna or water lentils) which doubles its mass every 36 hours and contains 25% - 45% protein. These high protein levels, combined with great emulsifying capabilities, are why microalgae is a major R&D channel for big players like Unilever.

Animated GIF-downsized_large (3)
We've gathered 70+ algae companies you should know about.

📈 The Key Figures

  • Experts estimate that there are anywhere between 30,000 and one million species of algae in the world
  • The global algae market was estimated at $782.9M in 2020, and is projected to reach $1.2B by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.2%.
  • While North America still dominates, European demand has grown significantly in the last few years, owing to the expansion of marine aquaculture in countries such as Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
  • Plus, according to a new report released by the Good Food Institute India, the country could become a major foundation for the global algal protein industry, able to tap into its cohort of homegrown microalgae producers and optimal coastline environment.

🤷‍♂️ Why all the algae love?

  • Algae is easy to cultivate. It grows in freshwater, saltwater and wastewater. It can flourish in the sun through photosynthesis, but it can also grow in the dark.
  • It’s a readily available, affordable and renewable source of energy.
  • Seaweed is actually carbon negative because it absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide directly from the sea.
  • It has been estimated that single cell protein sources (eg microalgae) hold the potential to meet up to 20% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand by 2050.
  • Algae is a natural plant-based source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This makes it a great candidate for use in health-promoting foods, drinks and dietary supplements without ingredients of animal origin.
  • As a fast-growing, protein-dense microorganism, it’s perfect for biomass fermentation.
davidchang
Renowned Chef David Chang collaborating with Sweetgreen on Kelp salad. Source: Sweetgreen

😎 Algae moving into the mainstream

Until recently, macroalgae was typically transformed into thickening agents for puddings, chewing gum, jams and jellies. But thanks to a growing global appreciation for seafood-heavy cuisines and the attention of top chefs, sea vegetables or sea greens - as they’ve been rechristened - are now making a splash on restaurant menus.

Sweetgreen, an American fast casual restaurant chain, collaborated with chef David Chang last year to create a new “Tingly Sweet Potato and Kelp bowl”. And a number of ready-to-use products – from seaweed butter and tea to snacks and salsa – are appearing on retail shelves.  

Microalgae has been most commonly used in supplements or to enrich the nutritional content of existing products – from bright green smoothie shots and functional beverages to noodles and pasta. Microalgae and duckweed also make great binding agents, meaning that they can replace egg whites in products like mayonnaise and plant-based burgers. In fact, microalgae is so versatile that Paris-based start-up, Algama, claims to have over 200 prototypes in the pipeline, ready to upscale.


Sponsored by F&A Next

Where AgriFoodTech Investors, Entrepreneurs and Experts Meet 👋

F&A Next invites investors, entrepreneurs and experts to address the next challenges of our sector on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 at the 6th annual F&A Next Summit.

Use early bird code FHK-FaNext21 for 25% off your tickets.


👀 Who - The algae innovators

  • Sophie’s BioNutrients won a SGD 1 million grant from Temasek Foundation’s Liveability Challenge in 2019, and just won MassChallenge Switzerland’s Sustainable Food Systems Challenge. It recently launched its first 100% plant-based burger patty created from single-cell microalgae, which claims to have more protein than commercially-sold beef or most fish. Plus, it just unveiled the world’s first 100% microalgae-based milk alternative. Winning.
  • Provectus Algae raised $3.25M last year to ‘program’ algae production and optimise it for commercial application.
  • Triton Algae Innovations ($10M funding to date) is preparing to launch its plant-based algae ingredients and its first retail product – a vegan tuna alternative.
  • Qualitas Health just raised $12.5M for its algae which is cultivated in pond systems constructed on desert land that is unsuitable for growing more traditional crops.
  • Smallfood (CA$20M so far from private investors and government grants) is debuting a new strain of microalgae grown through its proprietary fermentation technology in just seven days, which produces a novel “perfect protein” that can be used to develop alternative meats.
  • Trophic raised $2.1M last year and is on a mission to replace soy with seaweed as the most widely available and productive source of protein.
  • Allmicroalgae (no public funding round to date) recently unveiled two new products: Yellow Chlorella, which works well as an egg substitute, and White Chlorella, which can replace conventional dairy bases such as milk.
  • Back of the Yards Algae Sciences (no public funding round to date) is leveraging algae to make heme, the ingredient that Impossible Foods uses to make its plant-based meats taste, look, cook and bleed like the real thing.
  • Seakura (no public funding round to date) has developed a unique land-based production system for seaweed.
  • Plantruption (no public funding round to date) has created burgers made from hand-harvested Irish seaweed, microalgae and tempeh, which are super nutritious and packed with protein.
  • FUL Foods (no public funding round to date) based in Delft, is growing microalgae in photobioreactors, refining it into a superfood, and bottling it as a naturally blue tonic. They currently refine it in breweries and have recently received a grant from the RVO to perform a feasibility study of growing microalgae using the brewery’s excess CO2 emissions.

🔎 Discover our database with 70+ more algae leaders and startups here

FUL_lab_bioreactor-23-678x494
WaterFUL contains FUL, an ingredient centred around microalgae. Source: FUL Foods

❌ Challenges

  • Consumer perception: for most, when we hear the word ‘algae’ we think of green pond goop, not a delicious potential source of food. Plus, some may struggle to see how they can build it into everyday meals.
  • Taste and odour issues: some algae have a grassy taste, some a fishy smell… While algae can be a great flavour addition in, for example, plant-based seafood, it can be tricky to mask taste and odour in other applications.

🔮 Our predictions:

  • As consumer interest in healthy ingredients continues to grow, algae will move even further into the spotlight. Chefs will continue to experiment, and we foresee DTC ingredients for home cooks (eg algae as a salt replacement).
  • More algae-based protein products for athletes and individuals, such as powders, bars and shakes, like those by French startup NØKO FOODS.
  • More plant-based meat, seafood and dairy alternatives made from, or flavoured with, algae.
  • More algae-based ready-to-eat snacks, which are a less daunting prospect for consumers than trying to work algae into everyday meals.

Want to know more? We deep-dived into algae as the future of protein here on FoodHack+ along with some

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Algae, one of the world’s first organisms, may be changing the world all over again. In our 2021 trends predictions, one contributor forecasted that “2021 is the year of the Seaweed revolution! Mark my words!” and we might have to agree.

These tiny aquatic organisms have been making big waves in the FoodTech scene lately, as startups, scientists, and multinationals like Nestlé, ADM and Bühler go all-in on algae.

Even the International Space Station is testing a bioreactor to convert the carbon dioxide produced by its astronauts into oxygen, and then using the algae to supplement the diets of those on board. You could say it's, out of this world

So, let’s take a closer look at why this microscopic stuff has such astronomic potential.

algae cultivation
Acres of saltwater pools in the desert growing algae for food consumption. Source: iWi Life

💡 Know your Macro from your Micro

Macroalgae - aka seaweed - can be harvested naturally or grown by aquaculture. Protein levels vary, but reach as high as 47% of the dry weight of red seaweed, comparable with proteins like chicken or plant isolates.

Nori – the green black edible packaging for our sushi – is probably the macroalgae that most regularly graces our plates. But its lesser-known cousins Kombu, Wakame and Dulse also have salty, rich, umami taste, with Dulse apparently taking on an almost bacon-like taste when cooked.

Seaweed is sustainable and scalable, with millions of tonnes produced in the ocean using no resources other than existing nutrients in the sea and sunlight. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing all the essential amino acids, vitamin B12, and lots of protein and fibre.

Microalgae on the other hand are single cell algae and are typically grown in freshwater tanks. The stars of the show here are Spirulina and Chlorella, each containing around 50 - 70% protein. There’s also duckweed (aka Lemna or water lentils) which doubles its mass every 36 hours and contains 25% - 45% protein. These high protein levels, combined with great emulsifying capabilities, are why microalgae is a major R&D channel for big players like Unilever.

Animated GIF-downsized_large (3)
We've gathered 70+ algae companies you should know about.

📈 The Key Figures

  • Experts estimate that there are anywhere between 30,000 and one million species of algae in the world
  • The global algae market was estimated at $782.9M in 2020, and is projected to reach $1.2B by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.2%.
  • While North America still dominates, European demand has grown significantly in the last few years, owing to the expansion of marine aquaculture in countries such as Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
  • Plus, according to a new report released by the Good Food Institute India, the country could become a major foundation for the global algal protein industry, able to tap into its cohort of homegrown microalgae producers and optimal coastline environment.

🤷‍♂️ Why all the algae love?

  • Algae is easy to cultivate. It grows in freshwater, saltwater and wastewater. It can flourish in the sun through photosynthesis, but it can also grow in the dark.
  • It’s a readily available, affordable and renewable source of energy.
  • Seaweed is actually carbon negative because it absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide directly from the sea.
  • It has been estimated that single cell protein sources (eg microalgae) hold the potential to meet up to 20% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand by 2050.
  • Algae is a natural plant-based source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This makes it a great candidate for use in health-promoting foods, drinks and dietary supplements without ingredients of animal origin.
  • As a fast-growing, protein-dense microorganism, it’s perfect for biomass fermentation.
davidchang
Renowned Chef David Chang collaborating with Sweetgreen on Kelp salad. Source: Sweetgreen

😎 Algae moving into the mainstream

Until recently, macroalgae was typically transformed into thickening agents for puddings, chewing gum, jams and jellies. But thanks to a growing global appreciation for seafood-heavy cuisines and the attention of top chefs, sea vegetables or sea greens - as they’ve been rechristened - are now making a splash on restaurant menus.

Sweetgreen, an American fast casual restaurant chain, collaborated with chef David Chang last year to create a new “Tingly Sweet Potato and Kelp bowl”. And a number of ready-to-use products – from seaweed butter and tea to snacks and salsa – are appearing on retail shelves.  

Microalgae has been most commonly used in supplements or to enrich the nutritional content of existing products – from bright green smoothie shots and functional beverages to noodles and pasta. Microalgae and duckweed also make great binding agents, meaning that they can replace egg whites in products like mayonnaise and plant-based burgers. In fact, microalgae is so versatile that Paris-based start-up, Algama, claims to have over 200 prototypes in the pipeline, ready to upscale.


Sponsored by F&A Next

Where AgriFoodTech Investors, Entrepreneurs and Experts Meet 👋

F&A Next invites investors, entrepreneurs and experts to address the next challenges of our sector on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 at the 6th annual F&A Next Summit.

Use early bird code FHK-FaNext21 for 25% off your tickets.


👀 Who - The algae innovators

  • Sophie’s BioNutrients won a SGD 1 million grant from Temasek Foundation’s Liveability Challenge in 2019, and just won MassChallenge Switzerland’s Sustainable Food Systems Challenge. It recently launched its first 100% plant-based burger patty created from single-cell microalgae, which claims to have more protein than commercially-sold beef or most fish. Plus, it just unveiled the world’s first 100% microalgae-based milk alternative. Winning.
  • Provectus Algae raised $3.25M last year to ‘program’ algae production and optimise it for commercial application.
  • Triton Algae Innovations ($10M funding to date) is preparing to launch its plant-based algae ingredients and its first retail product – a vegan tuna alternative.
  • Qualitas Health just raised $12.5M for its algae which is cultivated in pond systems constructed on desert land that is unsuitable for growing more traditional crops.
  • Smallfood (CA$20M so far from private investors and government grants) is debuting a new strain of microalgae grown through its proprietary fermentation technology in just seven days, which produces a novel “perfect protein” that can be used to develop alternative meats.
  • Trophic raised $2.1M last year and is on a mission to replace soy with seaweed as the most widely available and productive source of protein.
  • Allmicroalgae (no public funding round to date) recently unveiled two new products: Yellow Chlorella, which works well as an egg substitute, and White Chlorella, which can replace conventional dairy bases such as milk.
  • Back of the Yards Algae Sciences (no public funding round to date) is leveraging algae to make heme, the ingredient that Impossible Foods uses to make its plant-based meats taste, look, cook and bleed like the real thing.
  • Seakura (no public funding round to date) has developed a unique land-based production system for seaweed.
  • Plantruption (no public funding round to date) has created burgers made from hand-harvested Irish seaweed, microalgae and tempeh, which are super nutritious and packed with protein.
  • FUL Foods (no public funding round to date) based in Delft, is growing microalgae in photobioreactors, refining it into a superfood, and bottling it as a naturally blue tonic. They currently refine it in breweries and have recently received a grant from the RVO to perform a feasibility study of growing microalgae using the brewery’s excess CO2 emissions.

🔎 Discover our database with 70+ more algae leaders and startups here

FUL_lab_bioreactor-23-678x494
WaterFUL contains FUL, an ingredient centred around microalgae. Source: FUL Foods

❌ Challenges

  • Consumer perception: for most, when we hear the word ‘algae’ we think of green pond goop, not a delicious potential source of food. Plus, some may struggle to see how they can build it into everyday meals.
  • Taste and odour issues: some algae have a grassy taste, some a fishy smell… While algae can be a great flavour addition in, for example, plant-based seafood, it can be tricky to mask taste and odour in other applications.

🔮 Our predictions:

  • As consumer interest in healthy ingredients continues to grow, algae will move even further into the spotlight. Chefs will continue to experiment, and we foresee DTC ingredients for home cooks (eg algae as a salt replacement).
  • More algae-based protein products for athletes and individuals, such as powders, bars and shakes, like those by French startup NØKO FOODS.
  • More plant-based meat, seafood and dairy alternatives made from, or flavoured with, algae.
  • More algae-based ready-to-eat snacks, which are a less daunting prospect for consumers than trying to work algae into everyday meals.

Want to know more? We deep-dived into algae as the future of protein here on FoodHack+ along with some

Algae, one of the world’s first organisms, may be changing the world all over again. In our 2021 trends predictions, one contributor forecasted that “2021 is the year of the Seaweed revolution! Mark my words!” and we might have to agree.

These tiny aquatic organisms have been making big waves in the FoodTech scene lately, as startups, scientists, and multinationals like Nestlé, ADM and Bühler go all-in on algae.

Even the International Space Station is testing a bioreactor to convert the carbon dioxide produced by its astronauts into oxygen, and then using the algae to supplement the diets of those on board. You could say it's, out of this world

So, let’s take a closer look at why this microscopic stuff has such astronomic potential.

algae cultivation
Acres of saltwater pools in the desert growing algae for food consumption. Source: iWi Life

💡 Know your Macro from your Micro

Macroalgae - aka seaweed - can be harvested naturally or grown by aquaculture. Protein levels vary, but reach as high as 47% of the dry weight of red seaweed, comparable with proteins like chicken or plant isolates.

Nori – the green black edible packaging for our sushi – is probably the macroalgae that most regularly graces our plates. But its lesser-known cousins Kombu, Wakame and Dulse also have salty, rich, umami taste, with Dulse apparently taking on an almost bacon-like taste when cooked.

Seaweed is sustainable and scalable, with millions of tonnes produced in the ocean using no resources other than existing nutrients in the sea and sunlight. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing all the essential amino acids, vitamin B12, and lots of protein and fibre.

Microalgae on the other hand are single cell algae and are typically grown in freshwater tanks. The stars of the show here are Spirulina and Chlorella, each containing around 50 - 70% protein. There’s also duckweed (aka Lemna or water lentils) which doubles its mass every 36 hours and contains 25% - 45% protein. These high protein levels, combined with great emulsifying capabilities, are why microalgae is a major R&D channel for big players like Unilever.

Animated GIF-downsized_large (3)
We've gathered 70+ algae companies you should know about.

📈 The Key Figures

  • Experts estimate that there are anywhere between 30,000 and one million species of algae in the world
  • The global algae market was estimated at $782.9M in 2020, and is projected to reach $1.2B by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.2%.
  • While North America still dominates, European demand has grown significantly in the last few years, owing to the expansion of marine aquaculture in countries such as Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
  • Plus, according to a new report released by the Good Food Institute India, the country could become a major foundation for the global algal protein industry, able to tap into its cohort of homegrown microalgae producers and optimal coastline environment.

🤷‍♂️ Why all the algae love?

  • Algae is easy to cultivate. It grows in freshwater, saltwater and wastewater. It can flourish in the sun through photosynthesis, but it can also grow in the dark.
  • It’s a readily available, affordable and renewable source of energy.
  • Seaweed is actually carbon negative because it absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide directly from the sea.
  • It has been estimated that single cell protein sources (eg microalgae) hold the potential to meet up to 20% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand by 2050.
  • Algae is a natural plant-based source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This makes it a great candidate for use in health-promoting foods, drinks and dietary supplements without ingredients of animal origin.
  • As a fast-growing, protein-dense microorganism, it’s perfect for biomass fermentation.
davidchang
Renowned Chef David Chang collaborating with Sweetgreen on Kelp salad. Source: Sweetgreen

😎 Algae moving into the mainstream

Until recently, macroalgae was typically transformed into thickening agents for puddings, chewing gum, jams and jellies. But thanks to a growing global appreciation for seafood-heavy cuisines and the attention of top chefs, sea vegetables or sea greens - as they’ve been rechristened - are now making a splash on restaurant menus.

Sweetgreen, an American fast casual restaurant chain, collaborated with chef David Chang last year to create a new “Tingly Sweet Potato and Kelp bowl”. And a number of ready-to-use products – from seaweed butter and tea to snacks and salsa – are appearing on retail shelves.  

Microalgae has been most commonly used in supplements or to enrich the nutritional content of existing products – from bright green smoothie shots and functional beverages to noodles and pasta. Microalgae and duckweed also make great binding agents, meaning that they can replace egg whites in products like mayonnaise and plant-based burgers. In fact, microalgae is so versatile that Paris-based start-up, Algama, claims to have over 200 prototypes in the pipeline, ready to upscale.


Sponsored by F&A Next

Where AgriFoodTech Investors, Entrepreneurs and Experts Meet 👋

F&A Next invites investors, entrepreneurs and experts to address the next challenges of our sector on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 at the 6th annual F&A Next Summit.

Use early bird code FHK-FaNext21 for 25% off your tickets.


👀 Who - The algae innovators

  • Sophie’s BioNutrients won a SGD 1 million grant from Temasek Foundation’s Liveability Challenge in 2019, and just won MassChallenge Switzerland’s Sustainable Food Systems Challenge. It recently launched its first 100% plant-based burger patty created from single-cell microalgae, which claims to have more protein than commercially-sold beef or most fish. Plus, it just unveiled the world’s first 100% microalgae-based milk alternative. Winning.
  • Provectus Algae raised $3.25M last year to ‘program’ algae production and optimise it for commercial application.
  • Triton Algae Innovations ($10M funding to date) is preparing to launch its plant-based algae ingredients and its first retail product – a vegan tuna alternative.
  • Qualitas Health just raised $12.5M for its algae which is cultivated in pond systems constructed on desert land that is unsuitable for growing more traditional crops.
  • Smallfood (CA$20M so far from private investors and government grants) is debuting a new strain of microalgae grown through its proprietary fermentation technology in just seven days, which produces a novel “perfect protein” that can be used to develop alternative meats.
  • Trophic raised $2.1M last year and is on a mission to replace soy with seaweed as the most widely available and productive source of protein.
  • Allmicroalgae (no public funding round to date) recently unveiled two new products: Yellow Chlorella, which works well as an egg substitute, and White Chlorella, which can replace conventional dairy bases such as milk.
  • Back of the Yards Algae Sciences (no public funding round to date) is leveraging algae to make heme, the ingredient that Impossible Foods uses to make its plant-based meats taste, look, cook and bleed like the real thing.
  • Seakura (no public funding round to date) has developed a unique land-based production system for seaweed.
  • Plantruption (no public funding round to date) has created burgers made from hand-harvested Irish seaweed, microalgae and tempeh, which are super nutritious and packed with protein.
  • FUL Foods (no public funding round to date) based in Delft, is growing microalgae in photobioreactors, refining it into a superfood, and bottling it as a naturally blue tonic. They currently refine it in breweries and have recently received a grant from the RVO to perform a feasibility study of growing microalgae using the brewery’s excess CO2 emissions.

🔎 Discover our database with 70+ more algae leaders and startups here

FUL_lab_bioreactor-23-678x494
WaterFUL contains FUL, an ingredient centred around microalgae. Source: FUL Foods

❌ Challenges

  • Consumer perception: for most, when we hear the word ‘algae’ we think of green pond goop, not a delicious potential source of food. Plus, some may struggle to see how they can build it into everyday meals.
  • Taste and odour issues: some algae have a grassy taste, some a fishy smell… While algae can be a great flavour addition in, for example, plant-based seafood, it can be tricky to mask taste and odour in other applications.

🔮 Our predictions:

  • As consumer interest in healthy ingredients continues to grow, algae will move even further into the spotlight. Chefs will continue to experiment, and we foresee DTC ingredients for home cooks (eg algae as a salt replacement).
  • More algae-based protein products for athletes and individuals, such as powders, bars and shakes, like those by French startup NØKO FOODS.
  • More plant-based meat, seafood and dairy alternatives made from, or flavoured with, algae.
  • More algae-based ready-to-eat snacks, which are a less daunting prospect for consumers than trying to work algae into everyday meals.

Want to know more? We deep-dived into algae as the future of protein here on FoodHack+ along with some

Algae, one of the world’s first organisms, may be changing the world all over again. In our 2021 trends predictions, one contributor forecasted that “2021 is the year of the Seaweed revolution! Mark my words!” and we might have to agree.

These tiny aquatic organisms have been making big waves in the FoodTech scene lately, as startups, scientists, and multinationals like Nestlé, ADM and Bühler go all-in on algae.

Even the International Space Station is testing a bioreactor to convert the carbon dioxide produced by its astronauts into oxygen, and then using the algae to supplement the diets of those on board. You could say it's, out of this world

So, let’s take a closer look at why this microscopic stuff has such astronomic potential.

algae cultivation
Acres of saltwater pools in the desert growing algae for food consumption. Source: iWi Life

💡 Know your Macro from your Micro

Macroalgae - aka seaweed - can be harvested naturally or grown by aquaculture. Protein levels vary, but reach as high as 47% of the dry weight of red seaweed, comparable with proteins like chicken or plant isolates.

Nori – the green black edible packaging for our sushi – is probably the macroalgae that most regularly graces our plates. But its lesser-known cousins Kombu, Wakame and Dulse also have salty, rich, umami taste, with Dulse apparently taking on an almost bacon-like taste when cooked.

Seaweed is sustainable and scalable, with millions of tonnes produced in the ocean using no resources other than existing nutrients in the sea and sunlight. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing all the essential amino acids, vitamin B12, and lots of protein and fibre.

Microalgae on the other hand are single cell algae and are typically grown in freshwater tanks. The stars of the show here are Spirulina and Chlorella, each containing around 50 - 70% protein. There’s also duckweed (aka Lemna or water lentils) which doubles its mass every 36 hours and contains 25% - 45% protein. These high protein levels, combined with great emulsifying capabilities, are why microalgae is a major R&D channel for big players like Unilever.

Animated GIF-downsized_large (3)
We've gathered 70+ algae companies you should know about.

📈 The Key Figures

  • Experts estimate that there are anywhere between 30,000 and one million species of algae in the world
  • The global algae market was estimated at $782.9M in 2020, and is projected to reach $1.2B by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.2%.
  • While North America still dominates, European demand has grown significantly in the last few years, owing to the expansion of marine aquaculture in countries such as Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
  • Plus, according to a new report released by the Good Food Institute India, the country could become a major foundation for the global algal protein industry, able to tap into its cohort of homegrown microalgae producers and optimal coastline environment.

🤷‍♂️ Why all the algae love?

  • Algae is easy to cultivate. It grows in freshwater, saltwater and wastewater. It can flourish in the sun through photosynthesis, but it can also grow in the dark.
  • It’s a readily available, affordable and renewable source of energy.
  • Seaweed is actually carbon negative because it absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide directly from the sea.
  • It has been estimated that single cell protein sources (eg microalgae) hold the potential to meet up to 20% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand by 2050.
  • Algae is a natural plant-based source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This makes it a great candidate for use in health-promoting foods, drinks and dietary supplements without ingredients of animal origin.
  • As a fast-growing, protein-dense microorganism, it’s perfect for biomass fermentation.
davidchang
Renowned Chef David Chang collaborating with Sweetgreen on Kelp salad. Source: Sweetgreen

😎 Algae moving into the mainstream

Until recently, macroalgae was typically transformed into thickening agents for puddings, chewing gum, jams and jellies. But thanks to a growing global appreciation for seafood-heavy cuisines and the attention of top chefs, sea vegetables or sea greens - as they’ve been rechristened - are now making a splash on restaurant menus.

Sweetgreen, an American fast casual restaurant chain, collaborated with chef David Chang last year to create a new “Tingly Sweet Potato and Kelp bowl”. And a number of ready-to-use products – from seaweed butter and tea to snacks and salsa – are appearing on retail shelves.  

Microalgae has been most commonly used in supplements or to enrich the nutritional content of existing products – from bright green smoothie shots and functional beverages to noodles and pasta. Microalgae and duckweed also make great binding agents, meaning that they can replace egg whites in products like mayonnaise and plant-based burgers. In fact, microalgae is so versatile that Paris-based start-up, Algama, claims to have over 200 prototypes in the pipeline, ready to upscale.


Sponsored by F&A Next

Where AgriFoodTech Investors, Entrepreneurs and Experts Meet 👋

F&A Next invites investors, entrepreneurs and experts to address the next challenges of our sector on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 at the 6th annual F&A Next Summit.

Use early bird code FHK-FaNext21 for 25% off your tickets.


👀 Who - The algae innovators

  • Sophie’s BioNutrients won a SGD 1 million grant from Temasek Foundation’s Liveability Challenge in 2019, and just won MassChallenge Switzerland’s Sustainable Food Systems Challenge. It recently launched its first 100% plant-based burger patty created from single-cell microalgae, which claims to have more protein than commercially-sold beef or most fish. Plus, it just unveiled the world’s first 100% microalgae-based milk alternative. Winning.
  • Provectus Algae raised $3.25M last year to ‘program’ algae production and optimise it for commercial application.
  • Triton Algae Innovations ($10M funding to date) is preparing to launch its plant-based algae ingredients and its first retail product – a vegan tuna alternative.
  • Qualitas Health just raised $12.5M for its algae which is cultivated in pond systems constructed on desert land that is unsuitable for growing more traditional crops.
  • Smallfood (CA$20M so far from private investors and government grants) is debuting a new strain of microalgae grown through its proprietary fermentation technology in just seven days, which produces a novel “perfect protein” that can be used to develop alternative meats.
  • Trophic raised $2.1M last year and is on a mission to replace soy with seaweed as the most widely available and productive source of protein.
  • Allmicroalgae (no public funding round to date) recently unveiled two new products: Yellow Chlorella, which works well as an egg substitute, and White Chlorella, which can replace conventional dairy bases such as milk.
  • Back of the Yards Algae Sciences (no public funding round to date) is leveraging algae to make heme, the ingredient that Impossible Foods uses to make its plant-based meats taste, look, cook and bleed like the real thing.
  • Seakura (no public funding round to date) has developed a unique land-based production system for seaweed.
  • Plantruption (no public funding round to date) has created burgers made from hand-harvested Irish seaweed, microalgae and tempeh, which are super nutritious and packed with protein.
  • FUL Foods (no public funding round to date) based in Delft, is growing microalgae in photobioreactors, refining it into a superfood, and bottling it as a naturally blue tonic. They currently refine it in breweries and have recently received a grant from the RVO to perform a feasibility study of growing microalgae using the brewery’s excess CO2 emissions.

🔎 Discover our database with 70+ more algae leaders and startups here

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WaterFUL contains FUL, an ingredient centred around microalgae. Source: FUL Foods

❌ Challenges

  • Consumer perception: for most, when we hear the word ‘algae’ we think of green pond goop, not a delicious potential source of food. Plus, some may struggle to see how they can build it into everyday meals.
  • Taste and odour issues: some algae have a grassy taste, some a fishy smell… While algae can be a great flavour addition in, for example, plant-based seafood, it can be tricky to mask taste and odour in other applications.

🔮 Our predictions:

  • As consumer interest in healthy ingredients continues to grow, algae will move even further into the spotlight. Chefs will continue to experiment, and we foresee DTC ingredients for home cooks (eg algae as a salt replacement).
  • More algae-based protein products for athletes and individuals, such as powders, bars and shakes, like those by French startup NØKO FOODS.
  • More plant-based meat, seafood and dairy alternatives made from, or flavoured with, algae.
  • More algae-based ready-to-eat snacks, which are a less daunting prospect for consumers than trying to work algae into everyday meals.

Want to know more? We deep-dived into algae as the future of protein here on FoodHack+ along with some

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