ALGAE –Food of the Future ?
According to UN data there are more than 70 mln people in the world suffering from starvation. Lack of food or its un affordable cost became a problem in many countries across the world. Besides, scientists suppose that by 2050 2.5 billion more people will be added to the world population.
The Commonplace question is : – How to feed the planet’s growing populations?
A lot of solutions have been presented. But here we are going to discuss only one – using algae as food! We will see how algae can help resolving world food supply difficulties. Spirulina will serve as an example for our story.
Algae are the most widely spread and numerous living beings on Earth. They live everywhere: in water (any water), on land, in the bowels of the Earth, deep in the soil, in limestone, in hot places, in ice. The omnipresent distribution of these plants defines the great significance they have in everyday life and activities of humans.
- Production plant; 2. Pipeline for waste gas; 3. Residue 4. Gas treating system; 5 Green house; 6 Air warming device; 7 Water for machine-cooling a-cold; a-warm; 8 Coal.
But can algae (the sea-algae to be exact) replace other types of food?
Presently it is known that see-algae’s content of micro and macro-elements are quite similar to that of a human blood. Also algae contain biologically active substances, such as lipids rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, chlorophyll derivatives, polysaccharides (sulphated galactans, fucoidans, glucans, pectins, alginic acids, as well as ligins, which are a valuable source of food tissues), phenol compounds, ferments, plant sterols, vitamins, carotinoids, and the aforementioned macro and micro elements. It was found that see-algae (see-weeds) contain more particular vitamins, micro-elements and iodine (see-weeds are absolute leaders among products in iodine content) than any other food.
Everything said above proves that see-algae are a balanced source of supplying the organism with mineral substances and micro-elements.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that see-algae are used not only as excellent food-product, but also as a raw material for making effective medicine against different illnesses.
Japanese scientist, Hiroshi Tamiya thought that “algae are more important than the nuclear energy”. This conclusion is at least partly true; since Japan boast one of the highest life expectancy rates, and algae are a part of everyday food-ratio!
As we know, algae do not have root systems; they consume nutrients throughout the surface. Algae multiply incredibly fast – the results of artificial growing will of course justify the expectations. With favorable lighting and nutrient supply chlorella, for example, will double its green mass every 24 hours. And all this on hydroponics!
Spirulina growing farm
Today algae are grown on hydroponics on large scales. Their nutrition requires only carbonic acid (derived from industrial waste and other sources) and a nutrient solution.
Figure 1 shows the view of modern “weed-plant” advised by Ernst Zaltser in his book “Hydroponics for Amateurs”:
In transparent cultivation channels the nutrient solution is being “infected” with algae, the solution is then being forced to circulate in self-contained system and is supplied with all necessary salts and CO2. To avoid diseases and pests isolation measures must be performed. Simplicity and effectiveness!
It is believed that almost all algae are suitable for consumption, since there is not a single poison form, unsuitable for consumption are only too coarse or distasteful species. There are more than 30 species of see-algae used for food, which can be freely bought almost anywhere.
Of course every one of us has tried sea-weeds dishes. Some will remark that this “grass” is impossible to eat, but this depends on food-habits, way of preparation, and individual preferences. Yes, if properly prepared, most of algae are eatable, but some of them can be used as a complete food-product, and some of them as a material to prepare different spices and garnishes.
Of course, by discussing the proposal of using algae as food, we still haven’t solved the task, since replacing commonplace products with algae cannot be performed in a minute. However, it can become a good alternative for supplying undeveloped and over-populated regions with food, and can create additional food reserves.
Spirulina, for instance, is categorized as one of the algae in which lies the hope to provide humanity with nutritious and cheap food. Let’s discuss it.
Spirulina is a generic name for a group of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). The most known species is Arthrospira platensis (syn. Spirulina platensis).
Spirulina contains up to 70% of fully valuable proteins, which is 1.5 times more than in soya beans. It is cultivated in severalcountries for forage. It is also used as food additive and is sold mostly in a form of pills.
Here is a small historical fact connected with spirulina. In the middle of African continent, not far from lake Chad, local aborigines are not prone to diseases common for modern people. They always look healthy and almost all of them are long-livers. Scientists discovered that those people are always consuming green-weeds, namely spirulina, growing in the lake.
So, what is so special about spirulina that makes it differ from other algae and how does it influence human health? As we’ve already mentioned, spirulina is extremely rich in proteins. 100 grams of spirulina powder contain 60—70 grams of protein, 3 times more than in soya beans. Spirulina’s proteins are easily assimilated by human organism. The assimilation coefficient is 65—80%, while soya beans’ protein is assimilated only be 40%. Besides, spirulina contains 18 types of amino-acids, which are essential for humans, 8 of them cannot be synthesized by human body.
Other cultivated algae do not have such a unique composition. Unlike other protein-rich food, spirulina’s amino-acids are in unbound state, so they can be immediately assimilated. A unique assimilation coefficient of 95.1% contributes to that.
Spirulina farm is a green food-producing machine. Sun, air, and water are the main ingredients for spirulina’s active growth. Nowadays spirulina is being grown in Mexico, USA, India, Thailand, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Growing spirulina became so popular that it became cultivated in Bulgaria, Israel, and Italy. There is also some information about small farms in Moldova and Ukraine.
Many laboratories produce new strains with higher productivity and optimized biomass composition. However, as a food, it is still used by the aforementioned aborigines, who have it under their feet. We are getting the “food of the future” as various biologically active additives in pills and capsules. Perhaps, it is time to change our approach to spirulina?
Ernst Zaltser.“Hydroponics for Amateurs”. Moscow, ’65
Hydroponika. lc.vg • Dic.academic.ru • Ponics.ru.