2021: The Year in Algae, and Where to in ’22?

Seagriculture USA 2024

Happy New Year to you all. We at Algae Planet hope you are entering a new year of good health and prosperity. It’s clear that 2021 was a critical time in the building of the algae industry. In today’s main feature, we look back at some of the stories that reflect the industry’s growth and areas where new ground has been broken. There were many exciting developments over the past twelve months, from turning seaweed into plastic, to using seaweed for methane mitigation, to mining seaweed’s medical benefits, to seaweed farming moving into a rapid growth and development period. Yes, seaweed was the big story in algae in 2021, and it doesn’t look like it will be any less so in the news throughout 2022.

But it wasn’t the only story. Other innovations that drew attention included the growing attempts to imitate the textures and flavors of popular foods using algae. There was continuing research into making algal fuels viable by some of the industry’s brightest minds. Innovative algal-based textiles, wearables, and fashion materials are speeding up their development. Even algal cures for Covid were being promoted.

2021 was a year that the industry continued to diversify, find more applications, support more business types, and demonstrate more entrepreneurial vision. We all know that algae can, and is, making critical contributions to the health and wellbeing of the planet. It is the dedicated pioneers of algae that are making this a reality and we at Algae Planet salute you.

Please enjoy these highlights from the year 2021, and a hint at the year to come:

In Energy

CSU Powerhouse

Algae growing in ponds at the CSU Powerhouse.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy granted $61.4 million for developing technologies that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels to power heavy-duty vehicles that are difficult to electrify with current technologies, including airplanes and ships. —read more
  • A team of Colorado State University engineers and biologists is working to engineer algal strains and improve cultivation operations that will increase biomass production by 20 percent. —read more
  • Researchers developed a methodology to analyze the properties of different algal species to select the best one for use as an energy source. It takes into account biological, economic, and environmental aspects. —read more
  • Scientists in China created a “genome scalpel” that trims microalgal genomes rapidly and creatively to a “minimal genome” as a “chassis” strain for synthetic biologists. They then customize production of biomolecules such as biofuels or bioplastics. —read more
  • The first seaweed farm by the Marine Biological Laboratory was installed in Puerto Rico and U.S. tropical waters. It is intended to further the design and development of a system for offshore cultivation of tropical seaweeds to support large-scale production of biomass for biofuels. —read more
  • Two commercial flights in Japan used a blend containing renewable jet fuel created from microalgae. It was the first use of the new ASTM D7566 Annex 7 standard for fuel used in commercial jet engines. —read more

In Food & Feed

Sophie’s Bionutrients

Eugene Wang, Co-founder & CEO of Sophie’s Bionutrients

  • In Tasmania, seaweed producer Sea Forest is billing itself as the world’s first commercial producer of Asparagopsis seaweed feed supplements. Endemic to Australian and New Zealand waters, Asparagopsis’ popularity is exploding as a key component of livestock methane mitigation. —read more
  • New Zealand-based CH4 Aotearoa announced a scaling up of its R&D operations, as it leverages its Asparagopsis cultivation expertise to attack methane emissions. They plan to construct at least six Asparagopsis pilot farms in four coastal locations. —read more
  • Researchers at Flinders University’s Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development (CMBD) in Australia are responding to growing interest from consumers looking for healthier, more environmentally friendly, sustainable and ethical alternatives to animal protein. —read more
  • Kuehnle Agrosystems, a sustainable algae ingredients development company in Honolulu, announced the allowance of its patent for producing algal proteins and other products from Chlamydomonas by dark fermentation. —read more
  • Sophie’s Bionutrients, a sustainable food production technology company, announced that it has developed the world’s first-ever microalgae-based milk, safe for consumption for people with lactose-intolerance. Other food items soon followed. —read more
  • Researchers at the University of Cambridge say that global malnutrition could be eradicated by farming foods such as spirulina, chlorella, insect larvae such as the house fly, mycoprotein (protein derived from fungi), and macroalgae such as sugar kelp. —read more

In Health & Nutrition

Dr. Pia Winberg and Gordon Wallace

Venus Shell Systems Founder and Director Dr. Pia Winberg with ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace.

  • A researcher from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, observed that a compound – gatorbulin-1 (GB1) – found in a cyanobacteria species in south Florida, may have significant anti-cancer benefits. —read more
  • Lumen Bioscience published research describing LMN-201, an investigational orally delivered biologic cocktail to prevent C. difficile infection (CDI). LMN-201 combines four therapeutic proteins – manufactured and delivered in the edible microorganism spirulina. —read more
  • 3-D bioprinted algae can be harnessed as a sustainable source of oxygen for human cells in engineered vascularized tissues. This was reported by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the journal Matter. —read more
  • Scientists from Australia’s ARC Center of Excellence for Electromaterial Science and the University of Wollongong, in partnership with their seaweed bioinks collaborators Venus Shell Systems, have discovered that the green algal species ulvan aids wound healing in humans. —read more
  • A group of researchers in Italy studied the presence of a large number of microalgal-derived compounds that suggest the potential antiviral benefits of a diet enriched with microalgae. —read more
  • A team at the University of Queensland is harnessing the natural ability of green algae to absorb solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce molecules that may help to cure some of the globe’s health and environmental challenges. —read more

In the Industry

Qualitas Minrav

Qualitas operates algae facilities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico.

  • Qualitas Health raised $10 million in a financing round led by food-tech venture capitalist PeakBridge, giving Qualitas a company valuation of $73 million, after the investment. —read more
  • Algalif Iceland announced a $30 million expansion plan for its sustainable astaxanthin production facilities in Iceland, tripling production from over 1.500 kg to 5.000 kg of astaxanthin annually. —read more
  • ABS and AlgalBBB stayed virtual in 2021. Of course. —read more
  • Viridos Inc., previously Synthetic Genomics, signed a joint development agreement with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company to bring Viridos’ low-carbon intensity biofuels toward commercial levels. —read more
  • The Seaweed for Europe Coalition launched with 30 members, spanning 10+ European countries, across the seaweed value chain. The Coalition intends to advance the development of a sustainable ocean economy. —read more
  • The UK seaweed farming industry has received funding from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to develop training and business development for the sector. —read more

In Research

Bioreactor ATMOS Life on Mars

Bioreactor ATMOS (Atmosphere Tester for Mars-bound Organic Systems).

  • Supplementing the diet of beef cattle with red seaweed can more than halve methane emissions without compromising meat quality, according to a study. Other studies show much higher levels of mitigation. —read more
  • Scientists showed for the first time that Anabaena cyanobacteria can be grown with only local gases, water, and other nutrients and at low pressure, making it a good candidate to support life on Mars. —read more
  • Galdieria, an extremophile microalga originally isolated from volcanic springs, may become a superfood that’s cheaper and easier to grow, and even more nutritious than spirulina. —read more
  • Scientists at India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology developed a bioplastic film using marine seaweed and polyethylene glycol (PEG)-3000. They feel this could have a huge impact on limiting the use of non-biodegradable plastics. —read more
  • By combining the “chassis” of an oil-producing microalgae with genes from a Cuphea plant, scientists turned the algae into a microbial “cell factory” that can produce various oils with different properties. —read more
  • Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that ulvan, an extract from the edible marine algae ulva (AKA Sea Lettuce) prevents cells from being infected with the Corona virus. —read more

In the Environment

Posidonia oceanica seagrass

Posidonia oceanica seagrass can remove plastic materials that have been polluting the sea, according to a new study. Credit: Wikipedia

  • In tests performed at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, feeding cows a diet that included just 0.2% red seaweed reduced methane production by 98%. —read more
  • Posidonia oceanica seagrass — an endemic marine phanerogam (a seed-producing plant) with an important ecological role in the marine environment — can remove plastic materials that have been left in the sea, according to a study. —read more
  • In an effort to increase the naturally occuring fertilizer in soils, MyLand’s Soil-as-a-Service takes soil samples from a farm, extracts native microalgae, reproduces those on-site, and then reintroduces the algae back into the field in mass quantities. Results reveal greatly increased crop yield. —read more
  • Sway, the Berkeley, CA-based materials company producing seaweed-based, home-compostable replacements for single-use plastic packaging, has announced its initial funding round of $2.5 million. —read more
  • DS Smith, a British multinational packaging business, is exploring how seaweed fibers can be used as a raw material in paper and packaging products. This research comes amid increasing demand for sustainable goods from customers. —read more
  • Notpla’s mission is to make packaging disappear by providing a sustainable alternative to plastic using seaweed. Their new £10 million Series A financing round will enable the London startup to grow its manufacturing capacity. —read more

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Seagriculture USA 2024
Contact Phil Ganz



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