One of the largest sources of human food on the planet is still not sufficiently explored: seaweed – which grow quickly and have a high nutritional value and even help neutralize greenhouse gas emissions – It should be the food of the future.
The conclusion was reached by a group of researchers, businessmen and representatives of international agencies who participated in lectures on what they called the “seaweed revolution” during the Ocean of United nationswhich ended in Lisbon on Friday (1).
The seaweed market, which currently moves about $11 billion annually, is expected to reach to $85 billion by 2030According to the World Bank’s Global Environment Director, Valerie Hickey. Despite the growth potential, the Acceptance of these products is still limited, especially in Western countries.
“There is a growing interest in seaweed, but there are also some cultural differences in terms of its acceptance as food. The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Merit Tanstad, explained that we have some regions where this tradition really exists, such as Asia, but in other regions There is still a long way to go.
In Western countries, the most famous application of seaweed in food is in restaurants of Japanese cuisine – Nori is a type of plate made from pressed and dried seaweed, and is used in temakis and sushi.for example.
Nori leaf, made from seaweed and widely used in Japanese cuisine – Photo: Marcus Winkler / Unsplash
But the possibilities are much more than that: a A series of start-up companies are investing in the production of other foods made from algae. From mortadella to shrimp, through imitation fish, companies and research groups are developing many new products.
Special Envoy for United nations For oceans, Peter Thompson is one of the biggest advocates of promoting seaweed-based foods.
To make it clear that there may be a change in eating habits in the coming years, Thompson told a story Her 2-year-old granddaughter is a fan of eating nori chips.
“When I was a kid, I used to have pure sugar lollipops to eat as a snack. Boiled sugar. How healthy is that? Whereas today my two-year-old granddaughter hasn’t seen anything like this,” Thompson said.
“She likes dried seaweed, nori, which you can buy at any health food store. She chews it up and asks for more, and here it is just dried seaweed.”
Peter Thompson, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Oceans, delivers a speech at the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: UN Photo/Rodrigo Cabrita
For the World Bank’s director of environment, seaweed is part of the list of solutions to world hunger and also to mitigating the effects of climate change, but it needs to be a target for more investments in the coming years.
“Seaweed is really the answer, but nobody takes it seriously. Everyone always thinks it’s a very niche market,” Valerie Hickey complained during a conference session.
3D-printed and lab-printed sea bass fillets, imitation shrimp and even a copy of traditional bologna: all of these products are being developed using seaweed by start-up companies or groups of scientists around the world.
Mortadella containing microalgae, for example, is made in New Zealand and has chefs working in award-winning restaurants in Europe. The sausage developed by New Fish takes advantage of the slightly salty flavor of the seaweed, which is combined with the typical New Zealand shellfish called abalone and pork mixture.
Mortadella containing seaweed is sold in New Zealand – Photo: clone / new fish
“We believe sustainable seaweed should become the foundation of our seafood crops and we support the growth of the industry through our products,” the founders said in an official statement.
US seafood startup New Wave Foods has announced a shrimp creation made with seaweed and non-GMO plant proteins, which will bring “virtually indistinguishable” flavor and texture from real crustaceans. The company has raised more than 18 million US dollars in investments to develop foodstuffs.
Imitated seaweed shrimp from New Wave Foods of America – Photo: Reproduction / New Wave Foods
Outside the corporate world, there are also new uses for seaweed in development. At the University of Lisbon, earlier this year scientists received €215,000 in funding for the Algae2Fish project from the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB).
The goal is to create the first sea bass-like fillet made solely of 3D-printed seaweed. It is expected that in about two years, the prototype will be ready and can be tasted by a team of tasters.
University of Lisbon laboratory developing imitation of fish fillets made from seaweed – Photo: Reproduction / GFI / University of Lisbon
The main driver behind these studies is the possibility that seaweed farms absorb emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas that is the main driver of climate change.
In addition, algae farms are also a strategy to reduce them sea acidification and restoration of marine ecosystems.
Experts also cited commercial algae production as an alternative to fishing communities affected by declining fish populations.
This report was produced as part of the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference Fellowship, organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK).
“Devoted food specialist. General alcohol fanatic. Amateur explorer. Infuriatingly humble social media scholar. Analyst.”