Algae, Microalgae & Seaweed

UK Project Develops Sustainable Microalgae Protein With Improved Flavour

The UK’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is collaborating with Imperial College London (ICL) and biotech startup Arborea to develop technology capable of producing sustainable microalgae protein with an improved flavour profile.

Algae has attracted significant interest in recent years as a highly sustainable protein source. However, current protein extraction methods are inefficient, expensive, and produce a final product with undesirable off-notes.

NRI will work to identify the compounds responsible for these flavours, and examine how they can be altered through changes in growth conditions and extraction methods. Meanwhile, ICL will develop cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods of producing algal protein extract, while Arborea — which has develped patented bioreactor technology — will contribute its expertise in the industrial growth and harvesting of microalgae.

The two-year project is funded by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of a novel low-emission food production systems competition. It is led by NRI alternative protein expert Dr Parag Acharya and University of Greenwich algae biotechnologist Dr Yixing Sui.

University of Hohenheim develops fish alternatives made from microalgae
Image supplied.

Powerful renewable resource

Scientists are increasingly exploring the potential for microalgae to be used in the food industry; this is especially true in the area of fish alternatives, due to algae’s fish-like taste and high omega-3 content. Last August, researchers at the University of Singapore announced that they had developed 3D-printed calamari rings using microalgae and mung bean protein. Two months later, scientists at Germany’s Hohenheim University revealed they had developed a fermentation process to break down the undesirable flavour compounds in microalgae.

Microalgae have also been used for other applications, such as omega-3 supplements and skincare products. Last month, Californian biotech firm Checkerspot announced it had used the algae to produce a fat mimicking that found in breast milk, an innovation that the company describes as a “breakthrough” for infant formula. Other companies, such as Berlin-based Quazy Foods, are using microalgae to develop functional food ingredients.

“Microalgae combine exceptional nutritional profiles with outstanding functional properties, which predestines them as a powerful renewable resource of the future,” said Berenike Zimmer, co-founder of Quazy Foods.

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