After gaining “superfood” status, the market for algae could reach up to $44.7 billion by 2023, according to a new report from Fish 2.0, a business competition designed to increase investment in sustainable seafood startups.
This year, the competition has seen a marked increase in the number of algae-focused startups applying to take part, with more than 10 of the 80 startups making it through to phase three (of four) of the competition working directly with algae.
The new free report explains that algae could transform industries if propagation and distribution are able to mature. The report argues that market demand is already in place and coming from many different industries.
Algae convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into fats and proteins that can be used in oils both for eating and fuel, as well as protein consumable by both humans and animals, and it also contains prized micro-nutrients.
Consumers are likely most familiar with macro-algae as these include edible seaweeds and kelp, common in Asian foods, that have also been popular in the US and Europe for decades. These are largely aquatic plants that can be easily grown in bodies of water, making them an excellent tool for economic development, according to the report.
Monica Jain, founder of Fish 2.0 and Manta Consulting, says macroalgae cultivation is “a good solution for fishing communities that need alternate sources of income.” Increasingly, macro-algae has become a food ingredient as well, like in the case of carrageenan, a controversial food stabilizer recently banned from USDA-certified organic products by the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.
Macroalgae are also in demand for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, mainly in the US and Europe, but the supply chain for these plants is long and can leave the farmer with low margins.
“While macro-algae are relatively easy and cheap to grow, most economic value is added during the processing and extraction of their beneficial compounds. Macro-algae growers therefore are focused on refining their production methods and vertically integrating with value-added processing in order to further their economic development and profit objectives,” reads the report.