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  • Writer's pictureRayki Goh, MSc

Is the Tiny but Mighty Microalgae the Solution to Singapore’s Food Security?

With their high protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, microalgae are revolutionising sustainable food production and tackling climate change. Researchers are developing them as nutrient factories, and new cultivation methods may cut food waste. Can these microbes change our food system and environment?


Mighty Microalgae

Dear Food People,

 

In this week’s article, let's take a dive into the microscopic world of microalgae and immerse ourselves in understanding how they're transforming our food system, all while combating climate change and boosting food security. Yes, if you’re thinking what we’re thinking, it’s the tiny but mighty microalgae that you’ll find in a pond, only that they are more than just obscure pond scums, but organisms packed to the brim with protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. These little green wonders aren't just floating around aimlessly; they're busy revolutionising sustainable food production.

 

They're incredibly versatile, thriving in various environments, from wastewater to seawater, making them an ingenious choice for feeding the planet sustainably. Now, let's geek out over some fascinating research findings. Food scientists have been hard at work, unlocking the potential of microalgae as a climate-friendly sustenance for humanity. Did you know that certain species can do more than cleaning up water but also churn out valuable compounds? Yep, they're like nature's own little purification and nutrient factories producing valuable compounds like carotenoids and essential fatty acids, which are beneficial for human health.

 

In the context of food security, microalgae offer a sustainable solution due to their nutrient richness and carbon sequestration capacity. They are a potential source of nutritionally balanced foods rich in proteins and other essential compounds, making them a promising food source for the growing global population. Moreover, microalgae align with climate change initiatives as they can help mitigate environmental issues associated with traditional land-based food production. Their high protein and nutrition content make them a new kind of superfood, and their potential to be a more efficient food source is gaining attention from researchers.

 

Researchers in food technology are all working on developing the most desirable traits in microalgae for commercial production, such as high biomass yields, high protein content, and a full nutrition profile. While challenges remain, the potential of microalgae to significantly contribute to global food security and sustainability is truly exciting. The diverse applications of microalgae in food production, from supplements to baked goods and animal feed, make them a versatile and sustainable ingredient for a wide range of consumer products.

 

But here's where it gets really interesting: researchers are exploring innovative ways to cultivate microalgae using by-products from other food processes, like liquid soya whey and soya pulp. It's a genius move, turning what would've been waste into nutritious food sources. Imagine the impact this could have on reducing food waste and feeding more people sustainably!

 

Now, let's zoom in on Singapore. We have discussed this before in many other articles on our platform. Scientists are on a mission to turn microalgae into delicious, nutritious treats. With the government's "30 by 30" goal on the horizon (that's aiming to produce 30% of the country's food locally by 2030), finding alternative food sources like microalgae is crucial. By harnessing the potential of microalgae, they're not just boosting food security; they're also shrinking the environmental footprint of food production.

 

But enough about research; let's talk about the food itself. Microalgae aren't just for the health-conscious; they're making their way into all sorts of products, from supplements to baked goods to beverages. Indeed, microalgae are becoming increasingly popular in a variety of food products, offering nutritional benefits and serving as innovative ingredients in items like smoothies, snacks, cheese substitutes, and meat-free charcuterie. Their high protein, vitamin, and essential fatty acid content make them attractive additions to health-conscious diets and culinary creations alike.

 

Microalgae such as Spirulina and Chlorella are commonly consumed as health supplements due to their high protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids content. Innovative food products such as microalgae-based cheese substitutes and meat-free charcuterie are being developed using microalgae. And here's the kicker, microalgae aren't just for humans; they are also utilised as a sustainable and nutritious feed source for animals, contributing to the production of livestock products enriched with bioactive compounds.

 

So, there you have it! Microalgae aren't just some obscure pond scum; they're a game-changer in the quest for sustainable, nutritious food that hopefully will become more mainstream in the market by 2030. And hey, if you have any insights or suggestions regarding how we can address environmental or food sustainability concerns, or if there's a specific topic, you'd like us to explore in our next issue, drop us a message at dearfoodpeople.com. After all, the more minds, the merrier when it comes to revolutionising our food future!

 

 

Further reading:

  1. Chua, M., Ho, Y., Li, N., Zhou, Y., & Tan, C. (2020). Technology innovations for food security in Singapore: A case study of future food systems for an increasingly natural resource-scarce world. Foods, 9(7), 978. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9070978

  2. Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). (n.d.). Singapore researchers working on creating sustainable, nutritious food from microalgae. Available at: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/sifbi/news-and-events/success-stories/news-events/In-the-News/singapore-researchers-working-on-creating-sustainable-nutritious-food-from-microalgae

  3. The Straits Times. (n.d.). S'pore researchers working on creating sustainable, nutritious food from microalgae. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spore-researchers-working-on-creating-sustainable-nutritious-food-from-microalgae

  4. Lim, W. S., Lim, Y. H., & Loo, Y. Y. (2013). Novel microalgae-based foods: What influences Singaporean consumers' acceptance? Food Research International, 54(1), 746-755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2013.08.017

  5. ETH Zurich. (n.d.). Urban Microalgae-Based Protein Production. Available at: https://sec.ethz.ch/research/urban-microalgae-based-protein.html

  6. Lin, C. S. K., Nagarajan, D., Liu, Y., Kolathuru, C. S., & Brown, R. J. (2022). High-efficiency biofuel production by mixing seawater and domestic ... Renewable Energy, 186(Part 2), 514-524. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2021.12.096

  7. ScienceDirect. (n.d.). From lab to application: Cultivating limnetic microalgae in seawater. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0043135422014166

  8. Umeå University. (n.d.). Microalgae purify water and produce valuable compounds. Available at: https://www.umu.se/en/news/microalgae-purify-seawater-and-produce-valuable-biomass_11641301/

  9. PubMed. (n.d.). Impact of the combined effect of seawater exposure with wastewater and Fe2O3 nanoparticles on Chlorella vulgaris microalgae growth, lipid content, biochar, and bio-oil production. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37268207

  10. Sustainable Water Resources Management. (n.d.). Desalination concentrates microalgae cultivation: biomass production and applications. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40899-023-00887-2

  11. International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Microalgae could be the future of global food security. Available at: https://www.iybssd2022.org/en/microalgae-is-the-future-of-global-food-security/

  12. Santos, T. V., & Da Silva, J. A. (2021). Microalgae as sustainable food and feed sources for animals and humans – Biotechnological and environmental aspects. Aquaculture, 533(Part 2), 736067. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2020.736067

  13. ScienceDirect. (n.d.). Microalgae-based products: Food and public health. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666833522000454

  14. Frontiers in Food Science. (n.d.). Use of algae as food ingredient: sensory acceptance and commercial products. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frfst.2022.989801/full

  15. CNN. (n.d.). This bio-designer is creating flavourful future food with microalgae. Available at: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/microalgae-future-food-flavors-hnk-spc-intl/index.html


 

The information provided in our articles is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The content on our website, including articles, is not meant to endorse or promote any specific medical treatments, products, or procedures. The information provided is based on general knowledge and research at the time of writing. Medical practices and knowledge are constantly evolving, and what may have been accurate at the time of publication may not be current or applicable today.

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