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Trophic: The Startup Using Seaweed to Make Plant-Based Meats More Sustainable

By now, most of us are aware that meat alternatives made with soy or peas are more sustainable than animal meat. But California-based startup Trophic thinks it’s found a way to make alt-meat products even more environmentally friendly — seaweed.

Trophic was founded in 2018 by Beth Zotter and Amanda Stiles. Previously, Zotter had researched seaweed’s potential as a biofuel, while Stiles was the leader of research at alt-dairy company Ripple Foods.

Seaweed is a highly sustainable protein source — it requires no fertilisers or fresh water, absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, and is high-yielding. According to Trophic, if seaweed farms covered an area the size of Massachusettes then the protein yielded would be enough to replace all the beef consumed worldwide.

Irish Moss Carrageen Seaweed
© Hedvika –

The company is focusing on red seaweed because it’s high in protein and has a vibrant colour. One variety, dulse, is even said to taste like bacon.

Another advantage of red seaweed is that it turns brown when cooked, unlike products such as the Beyond Burger which are coloured with beet juice. It’s also a source of B12, has a rich umami flavour, and is excellent at binding ingredients together.

Like Paris-based company Algaia, Trophic says its aim is to develop a branded ingredient to be used in meat alternatives.

“We’re still evaluating what the best product might be, but our goal is impact and to scale as fast as possible,” co-founder Beth Zotter told Grist. “That’s why we’re working on offshore farming technology and we’re developing robots to do this work. The Department of Energy is funding us because it is interested in seaweed as a renewable fuel. But the same technology could allow seaweed to become the most sustainable, scalable source of protein on Earth.”

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