How Algae Is Making Food Production More Sustainable
This year the Biden administration established national sustainability goals to limit environmentally degrading commercial activities. The agricultural and food production industry has long-standing ecological challenges interfering with the country’s carbon-neutrality objective. Professionals are searching for eco-friendly alternatives in hopes of reducing the sector’s environmental effects.
Researchers identified algae as a potential solution. It can replace ecologically degrading protein and nutrient sources, shrinking consumers’ and companies’ carbon footprints. Before exploring the environmental benefits of algae, we must assess the challenges it counters.
Ecological Challenges With Protein Sources
A significant environmental complication with meat production is land use. Farmers use nearly 60% of their land for cattle development. About one-quarter of the global meat consumption derives from beef and consumes 30 million square kilometers of land.
Beef production is also the leading cause of deforestation in tropical regions. It is fueling over two-thirds of all habitat loss in the Amazon rainforest. Additionally, meat development creates potent greenhouse gas emissions, limiting atmospheric conservation.
Cows produce methane and release it into the environment through belching. When the pollutant reaches the atmosphere, it alters Earth’s conventional temperature control process.
Naturally, the atmosphere absorbs sunlight, produces heat, warms Earth’s surface, collects unnecessary energy and sends it to space. Methane has a high sunlight-to-heat conversion rate, overproducing global heat. It also traps excess energy in the atmosphere and raises Earth’s temperature over time.
The agricultural industry produces about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. It is a significant driver of climate change, enhancing environmental degradation.
Another protein source affecting the industry’s sustainability is soy. This is a nutrient and water-intensive crop, also fueling deforestation and freshwater exploitation. Many vegetarian and vegan consumers look to soy as a protein substitute.
Researchers recently discovered the health and environmental benefits of replacing plant-based proteins and meats with algae, supporting global sustainability.
Algae’s Sustainability Properties
Many microalgae strains contain high counts of protein. Some are up to 60% protein and contain essential vitamins and minerals. They also reduce land and resource exploitation, using natural water to produce the food source.
Algae grow in salt, fresh and wastewaters. Professionals are combating two environmental challenges at once by producing edible algae at wastewater treatment plants. The plant matter naturally filters out toxins, nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals in the water, reducing surface-level pollution.
Removing algae from lakes, rivers and the ocean also increases ecological conservation. Naturally, algae develop from polluted runoff in major water sources. During its development, the plant matter depletes aquatic oxygen levels and fuels eutrophication.
Collecting excess algae for food protects organic oxygen levels and marine habitats. It also provides various health benefits for consumers. Society can replace most protein-rich foods with the highly abundant resource.
Algae consumption increases an individual’s vitamin and nutrient intake levels. Blue-green algae (BGA) are high in B vitamins, which many vegetarians and vegans lack. They are also rich in amino acids, helping consumers access adequate protein levels.
Additionally, BGA contains antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and antidiabetic properties, holistically protecting an individual’s well-being. Environmentalists evaluated the human health and environmental advantages of algae consumption and produced various food products. Individuals can increase the sustainability of their diets, replacing meat and soy protein with algae. If you eat sushi and seaweed salad, you are already consuming algae.
Food scientists are taking this to the next level by developing lines of microalgae-based products. Researchers developed an algae-based sourdough crostini from dried and flaked biomass and discovered an increase in the bread’s protein levels and antioxidant properties. Companies evaluated this and other studies, sparking their interests in the eco-friendly superfood’s uses.
Today, companies produce BGA pasta that is vegan, non-GMO and kosher. They also sell dried algae in capsules and power, making it easy to increase your plant-based protein consumption. Environmental scientists predict algae will dominate the food industry’s future.
Increasing Your Diet’s Sustainability Today
Consumers can adopt eco-conscious diets by first measuring their carbon footprints. If a significant portion of your emissions derive from meat consumption, it may be time to try a flexitarian diet. Rather than consuming beef or other animal products as your main form of protein, you can swap out some products with algae-based foods.