The Future of Food is Algae

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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.”

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