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Feed for Thought

Will algae be the future of the animal feed industry?

October 11, 2012

Looking for new sourcing, the animal feed industry looks to the sea. Maybe, its future lays on the waves and … seaweeds. Those vegetable might be used either directly, as the biggest ones contain a lot of proteins, trace elements and minerals, or as a byproduct of energy production for the microscopic ones, concentrating proteins and other nutriments. Food is a long-time user of algae, and there’s no reason animal feed couldn’t have potential with it, as well.

At the moment, the possibilities are more of a prospective, and scientists, nutritionists and fish feed producers look at it as the next generation of raw material. Of course, some are already there as additive sources and more might come soon, mainly from Asia. In Asia, you’ll find knowledge about algae production.

The seaweed industry is not, at the moment, fighting with soya. Nowadays, production might even look more like the gathering as our ancestors did before agriculture. Some of us still do some gathering on the borders of fall forests with wild berries or mushrooms. That doesn’t give us our full meals but may contribute to a better balanced diet. 

If, today, there is no future market for the price of seaweed proteins, it might come … in the future. As soon as volume comes, so will transparency, identification and standardization.

And animal feed might also thus contribute to resource optimization: Has its history not showed its capability in doing so (whey, bran, corn distiller, even meals are byproducts)? One problem is to avoid the exhaustion of natural milieu. If proteins from seaweeds are dedicated to fishmeal replacement, surely one will ensure that their use doesn’t come at the exhaustion of natural species.

At the moment, the north coast of Brittany (in the west of France) looks for a solution for green algae development: when grounded on the seaside, their fermentation produces a concentration of dangerous gases that killed wild boars and even a horse. Due to nitrate excess (coming from agriculture and other human activities such as laundry), this proliferation is also the occasion to collect fresh seaweed before they dry onshore. 

Co-op Sica du Leon, more used to deal with vegetables coming on ground, such as cauliflower or other green beans, has seen an opportunity there. With others, like Olmix or Algues de Bretagne, it had built a model of collecting and processing those algae that environmental associations look at as catastrophe. 

In other research: Roquette, Sanders and institute Pasteur are working on the European project Algohub. One of its aims is to see if eggs of hens that eat concentrate from microalgae might improve the health of people with macular degeneration.
We’ll see in the future if those models will go on.

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