In the coming years we’ll be eating more algae if we’re lucky. Amazing algae already accounts for biofuel production and can be used to make bioplastics too, so why not keep looking for other ways to use it? At Cornell, that’s exactly what some researchers did. They discovered that coastal places are ideal places to operate onshore algae farms to grow food, ironically deserts are the some of the most efficient places to do so. With arable land being destroyed for unsustainable low density housing and meat production we need to find other ways to grow nutrients.
With wild fish stocks already heavily exploited, and with constraints on marine finfish, shellfish, and seaweed aquaculture in the coastal ocean, Greene and colleagues argue for growing algae in onshore aquaculture facilities. GIS-based models, developed by former Cornell graduate student, Celina Scott-Buechler ’18, M.S. ’21, predict yields based on annual sunlight, topography, and other environmental and logistical factors. The model results reveal that the best locations for onshore algae farming facilities lie along the coasts of the Global South, including desert environments.
“Algae can actually become the breadbasket for the Global South,” Greene said. “In that narrow strip of land, we can produce more than all the protein that the world will need.”
The future will use algae everywhere so architects are examining ways to incorporate these versatile eukaryotic organisms into the built environment. Architects are already engaged in designing buildings to support algae growth and incorporating third party algae systems on to a building. Now we’re seeing architects think of ways to design buildings that are designed around algae and incorporate algae into all aspects of the structure. Over at Architeizer they have put together some really groovy algae architecture mashups.
In order to achieve minimal environmental impact, the studio envisions a two-fold approach to sustainability. Their proposal not only introduces algae as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but also proposes a system that can be incorporated into existing buildings.
The concept is applied in a rethinking of the Marina City Towers in Chicago. The architects imagine retrofitting the famous towers with a synthetic closed loop that works at three levels, carbon sequestration from the air to feed the bioreactor, absorption by vegetal photosynthesis and energy saving through solar and wind energy creation. This bioreactor, placed as tubes at the top of the building and the parking lot below, will produce enough energy to satisfy all the building’s power needs.
At the last Collision Conference Loliware pitched their eco-conscious business and won. Today Sea Briganti provided an update on the company and the success they’ve had replacing plastic usage with seaweed. They have created an entire line of products which are carbon negative! The company continues to grow and we need more companies like this so our recover from COVID-19 includes a green economy built on making the planet better.
As the CEO of an interdisciplinary team of expert scientists, food technologists, and seaweed biologists,
Sea F. Briganti developed LOLIWARE Intelligent Seaweed Technologies (LIST) â€“ a category of materials made from seaweed (a regenerative and carbon sequestering input) that outperform paper products & bioplastics.
We think about sustainability and impact throughout every aspect of LOLIWARE and our products.Why does our vision of a future free of plastic disposables matter?
Reducing our use of single-use plastics matters for both human health and planetary health. A dependence on plastic perpetuates a broken economic model built on the extraction of fossil fuels, which in turn accelerates the detrimental effects of climate change. Plastic disposables are particularly harmful contributors to climate change, and ultimately human health, as they require the ongoing extracting of petroleum to come to market, and then become one of the worst culprits of land and water pollution at the end of use.
Every year cement production contributes about 5% of the global emissions generated by humans. Any improvement around cement production will have a good impact on lowering carbon entering our atmosphere. In Sweden there’s one company using algae to lower its emissions. The country has carbon emission rates that are likely increasing in the next few years, which has inspired the cement company to figure out how to avoid paying more for producing the same amount of cement. Their solution: pumping the carbon output from their cement factory onto algae which then inhales all that delicious carbon, once the algae dies it becomes food.
Itâ€™s elegant: Take water from the Baltic Seaâ€™s Kalmar Strait next to the plant, pump it about 100 meters (330 feet, about the length of a soccer field) into bags that can hold about 3,000 liters (800 gallons) of liquid. Add key nutrients to multiply the naturally occurring algae, and then let them soak in the gases piped to it from the cement plant (what would otherwise be the factoryâ€™s waste product) while the sun shines.
Whatâ€™s more is the algae are rich in proteins and fats. After drying, they can be used as an additive for chicken- and fish-food. Heidelberg is in talks to sell the algae additives to major agricultural companies like Cargill. At its current size, the Algoland system in Degerhamn can only produce about a few kilograms of algae a day. But the plant has all it needs to scale up to make many metric tons of algae dailyâ€”light, water, fresh algae, and lots of spaceâ€”and thus capture many metric tons of carbon dioxide in the process.
The science underlying Algoland is not novel, but what is new is how well it integrates the many parts entailed into an economically feasible carbon-capture plant. The used-up limestone quarry can provide the space; a greenhouse built on it ensures the right temperature and light is available even when the sunâ€™s not shining; and the Baltic Sea is a source for both water and fresh algae.
Industrial fishing is killing life in the oceans at an alarming rate, so much so that the loss of life undersea is contributing to climate change. In fact, one tiny thing many people can do to fight climate change is to simply cut fish out of their diet. One company, New Wave Foods, in California is hoping to help people cut out shrimp from their diet by having them eat “shrimp”.
The “shrimp” they are making is actually plant-based so it can be grown even on land. Using red algae to make simulated shrimp is good for the environment and good for the shrimp under the sea.
M: How do you make shrimp from plants?
D: We use all plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste, texture, color, and nutritional profile of shrimp. We use soy for protein and red algae for flavor. Red algae are what shrimp eat in the wild, so they contribute to the flavor profile. Weâ€™re creating food out of food and using science to bring ingredients together.
M: How close are you to a finished product and wide distribution?
D: We are really close to a final product, and weâ€™re collaborating with a number of food experts. Weâ€™ve created the perfect shrimp in the lab, but now we have to scale it for greater production. We are going to market first with popcorn shrimp. Itâ€™s pretty perfect, and popcorn shrimp is about one-third of the shrimp market. It looks really familiar to people. Our goal is to launch this product in six to 12 months. Weâ€™ll do a soft launch in California first. Weâ€™re also working on a cocktail shrimp.