Advancement of Algae as a Sustainable and Functional Food Source
Current agricultural and food production practices are facing extreme stress, posed by climate change and an ever increasing human population. The pressure to feed nearly 8 billion people while maintaining a minimal impact on the environment has prompted a movement toward new, more sustainable food sources. For thousands of years, both the macro seaweed and kelp and micro unicellular forms of algae have been cultivated as a food source. Algae have evolved to be highly efficient at resource utilization and have proven to be a viable source of nutritious biomass that could address many of the current food production issues. Particularly for microalgae, studies of their large scale growth and cultivation come from the biofuel industry however, this knowledge can be reasonably translated into the production of algae based food products. The ability of algae to sequester CO2 lends to its sustainability by helping to reduce the carbon footprint of its production. Additionally, algae can be produced on non arable land using non potable water including brackish or seawater , which allows them to complement rather than compete with traditional agriculture. Algae inherently have the desired qualities of a sustainable food source because they produce highly digestible proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates, and are rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Although algae have yet to be fully domesticated as food sources, a variety of cultivation and breeding tools exist that can be built upon to allow for the increased productivity and enhanced nutritional and organoleptic qualities that will be required to bring algae to mainstream utilization.
Special Issue on Advanced Studies of Multidisciplinary Research and Analysis