Adelaide scientists turn marine microalgae into ‘superfoods’

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A new wave of superfoods are being cultivated in Adelaide’s labs in the hope that they will provide alternative means to sustainably feed the growing world population.

A team of scientists from Flinders University have developed alternative proteins to consume, but instead of meat, food items like caviar, vegan patties, plant-based meats, jelly, jams and spreads have been developed from marine microalgae.

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The substance is usually found in the ocean, but scientists at the university cultivated it in laboratories and turned it into consumable forms.

Artist in residence Niki Sperou has helped scientists develop these prototypes in the hope that they will be deployed industrially.

Artist in residence Niki Sperou. Photo: TBEN News

“We are able to manipulate the raw materials to mimic just about anything out there on the market, we just play around with textures and flavors and we can find something that is appealing and palatable to most people. people, ”Ms. Sperou said.

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She said the team had even developed “algae-mites” and although the microalgae product tastes like seaweed in its raw form, new technologies can alter the flavors to make it taste like anyone. what.

“People are looking for a different way to eat, something that is sustainable, healthy and ethical, and marine microalgae can fill the gap for people who are primarily looking for a plant-based diet,” she said.

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Algae handled for different uses

Professor Wei Zhang said that microalgae could be manipulated to become dominant and nutrient-dense proteins, providing health benefits for the consumer.

Professor Wei Zhang said that the composition of microalgae can be manipulated, so that it can be used in many ways. Photo: TBEN News

“We have the ability to modify its composition and therefore its adaptation to different food and nutritional applications,” said Mr. Zhang.

Research engineer Peng Su said his team could even control his behavior after being eaten.

“I can determine how long or how fast I want these nutrients to be released in my body based on my needs,” said Mr. Su.

Mr. Su said that coffee, for example, could be encapsulated in microalgae balls and manipulated to be released slowly.

“I can have a coffee [in ball-shaped products] and still have the benefits of coffee, but have it slowly released for 24 hours, so you don’t get a headache, ”he says.

Researcher praises ecological benefits

Principal researcher Kirsten Heimann said that, more importantly, the product significantly reduces humanity’s carbon footprint.

Kirsten Heimann, a senior researcher at Flinders University, said the product reduces the carbon footprint of humans. Photo: TBEN News

“Microalgae are really well equipped to clean up the mess we create, like absorbing carbon dioxide,” Ms. Heimann said.

“They are much better than plants. They fix around 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of dry weight biomass created.

“It’s huge – it’s the equivalent of a tropical forest.

“We need to find alternative sources of protein that actually reduce carbon dioxide and provide high quality food for a healthy human population.”

-TBEN

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