Algae Planet’s 2022 in Review

  SeagricultureAPAC

2022 year in review

Happy New Year everyone!

Each January it’s tempting to examine the past year for clues to where things are headed, what to embrace, and what to avoid. Looking back over the year 2022 in algae, there were many advancements in the creative, ecological, nutritional, and other applications where a new commercial world of algaenomics is beginning to emerge.

So, without further ado, let’s look back at several of the topics last year that indicated potential trends in the worlds of micro- and macroalgae.


Investment in Seaweed Sees Major Growth

Seaweed Sees Major Growth

Phyconomy.net, an information portal for the seaweed industry, released its State of the Industry 2022. The report showed that a vibrant seaweed industry is emerging outside of Asia, and investors are beginning to take it seriously. The industry saw the number of investment deals double in 2021, from 17 to 34, and the amount invested over the past year grew by 36% to $168 million.

While these numbers are small compared to fish and shrimp aquaculture investment, the upward trend is impressive. The number of seed rounds grew from 12 to 20, and the number of Series A or B jumped from 1 to 9, which shows the seaweed industry is beginning to break out of its hatchling stage.

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Growing Spirulina at Home

Personal PBRS in window

The popular image of algae farming is bubbling green columns and white-coated scientists and seems out of reach for ordinary people. Is the experience of algae farming limited to professionals? A growing network of DIY algae farmers is proving that we can all participate, by creating successful algae ponds and growth tanks in our own homes.

These are not mere science projects. Because of the high rate of algae growth and their potential nutrient density, it is possible to produce enough in a single window to significantly supplement an ordinary person’s diet. (Thank you, Dr. Baum and Robert Henrikson!)

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Making Paper from Seaweed

Making Paper from Seaweed

The Algae Research Lab at the university in Kuala Lumpur houses machines — all manufactured in South Korea — for making pulp from a species of red seaweed known as gelidium. Prof Dr. Phang Siew Moi, director of the university’s Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, and her colleagues and students are researching the properties of red algae, as well as its capacity for being turned into pulp and bioethanol.

They brought the red algae, native to South Korea, to Malaysia to see if it can be successfully cultivated in that climate. This is with the view toward creating a viable seaweed pulp and bioethanol industry, a green endeavor with huge commercial potential. (credit: Allan Koay, thestar.com)

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Will Sargassum Become the New Plastic?

sargassum horneri

S​outh Korea has launched a state project to develop biodegradable marine bioplastic materials using seaweed such as sargassum horneri, a species of brown macroalgae called “devil weed” from China that damages sea farms almost every year.

Lim Chang-Won reports in the AJU Business Daily that the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries anticipates “a great industrial ripple effect,” saying that plastic materials using sargassum horneri as well as seaweed and kelp by-products would have high economic efficiency and an environmental protection effect. (Photo: Wikimedia/Totti)

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The Potential of Algae to Treat Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a set of diseases which cause chronic inflammation in the bowel, the most common being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In all forms of this illness, its resulting bowel injury impairs organ functions and leads to severe pain, fatigue, depression and in some cases colon cancer. These symptoms impair the lives of more than 6.8 million people worldwide and, according to estimates, this illness is going to affect 8 million people by 2025.

So, what if the cure for a chronic disease like IBD lies in our ocean, rivers, or lakes? The EU-funded Algae4IBD project will help to answer this question.

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Symbrosia Raises $7 Million to Scale Methane Reducing SeaGraze™

Symbrosia

Symbrosia, a Hawai’i-based startup with a seaweed feed additive that reduces livestock methane emissions, received $7 million from Danone Manifesto Ventures, the venture arm of global food and beverage company, Danone.

Symbrosia completed the world’s first commercial Asparagopsis taxiformis trial in 2020, testing SeaGraze™ on an organic farm in Dover Plains, New York, where they confirmed “drastic methane reduction.” After this successful proof of concept, with scalable production in mind, the company focused on research and technological development. During this phase, Symbrosia developed robust A. taxiformis strains, substantially improving the pace and unit economics of SeaGraze™ production.

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Prometheus Using Algae to Decarbonize Concrete Blocks

Prometheus Materials

“To prevent catastrophic climate change, we cannot simply replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. We must also decarbonize the way we create building materials,” said Loren Burnett, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Prometheus Materials.

“By using biological rather than chemical means to create a strong, durable binding agent for aggregate, we can now offer a zero-carbon alternative to carbon-intensive portland cement. Our bio-cement will transform architecture as we know it, by providing the construction industry with a new decarbonized building material that has environmental and mechanical properties that mirror or exceed the capabilities of concrete, wood, steel, and glass.”

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Sway Raises $2.5M for Seaweed-based Packaging

Sway-algae-bags

Sway, the Berkeley, CA materials company producing seaweed-based, home-compostable replacements for single-use plastic packaging, has announced its initial funding round of $2.5 million. The funding signifies a major investment in the nascent seaweed industry, which could play a major role in combating climate change through carbon sequestration and ecosystem restoration.

Sway’s products are derived from seaweed, fully bio-based, nontoxic, high-performance, and rapidly compostable in home and industrial compost environments. This initial financing will allow Sway to accelerate the development of their first two products — high-performance, rapidly compostable polybags and retail bags — leading to initial pilots with influential and mission-aligned partner brands in 2023.

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Robert Henrikson Launches “Spirulina Voices”

Robert Henrikson

Growing spirulina outdoors seems to be enjoying a renaissance. S​pirulina expert and former president of Earthrise Spirulina, Robert Henrikson, has released a series of 20 videos covering two decades of his research on spirulina producers across the globe. In “Spirulina Voices,” algae microfarmers, from Mexico to Myanmar, present tours of their farms and products, and share their views on the future of their operations.

“Spirulina Voices” examines this microfarm phenomenon and demonstrates scaling up from home to backyard to rooftop to commercial greenhouses.

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Honda May Commercialize Carbon Capture Algae

Carbon Capture Honda

Honda Motor Co. is considering the commercialization of its algae-growing carbon capture technology, reports Shiho Takezawa in Japan’s Nikkei newspaper. The carmaker planned to test mass production of algae this past Fall and build a new facility of about 1,000 square meters (10,760 square feet), according to the newspaper. Honda will use the algae at its own production facilities in Japan and Southeast Asia to offset carbon emissions, from the latter half of 2023, the source said.

Honda Motor Co. is one of more than 35 Japanese companies and institutions aligning to tap the potential of microalgae to replace fossil fuels and contribute to a range of foods and consumer goods.

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European Commission Launches Platform for Algae in Europe

European Commission

The European Commission; the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA); and a consortium of sustainability consultants and algae organizations are launching a European algae stakeholder platform, called EU4Algae. The purpose of the platform is to accelerate the development of a European algae industry and promote algae for nutrition and other uses among consumers and businesses in the EU.

Despite all their vast applications in the culinary, health, and ecology arenas, the uptake in Europe of algae production and consumption has been slow. Too slow, according to the European Commission, so they are stepping up the game.

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Seaweed Yarn Maker AlgiKnit Scaling Production of Eco-Conscious Fashion

AlgiKnit yarn

AlgiKnit has spent the last four years developing new technology to produce yarns on a commercial scale to meet the growing demand for carbon-neutral, toxic-free textiles. The company is scaling up with a new facility that will house R&D, manufacturing, and business development teams under one roof and allow the company to help the global fashion industry decrease its carbon emissions.

The company’s yarns are derived mostly from kelp, one of the most renewable and regenerative organisms on the planet, and they can be used across the fashion industry to create footwear, accessories, and garments. “The yarn we’re producing today has the look and feel of the natural fibers consumers are familiar with,” said Aaron Nesser, co-founder and CTO of AlgiKnit.

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And with that, we’re off to a new year. We wish you all the success possible for 2023 and hope that the year brings us all a continuation of the brilliant ideas and bold directions that inspire creative algae solutions.

Cheers from your friends on Algae Planet!

All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint articles in their entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact david@algaeplanet.com. Algae Planet accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

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