The following is excerpted from the research and writings of Dr. Mark Edwards, one of the world’s foremost authorities on algae.
Nano-sized, single-celled algae are among Earth’s earliest life forms. They have been surviving in many of Earth’s harshest environments for several billion years. Algae’s simplicity enables these plants to be incredibly robust – they not only survive but produce high-value biomass in tough environments. In good cultivation conditions, algae produce protein and energy biomass at speeds that are 30 to 100 times faster than land plants.
Algae are critical to life on Earth as they produce the organic matter at the base of the food chain. The biomass is eaten by everything from the tiniest shrimp to the great blue whales. Algae also produce most of the oxygen for other aquatic life and provide more oxygen to the atmosphere than all the forests and fields combined.
Algae, the Latin name for seaweed, present themselves in all shapes and sizes. Microalgae are single-celled, microscopic organisms often smaller than 25 microns wide. Seaweeds are larger algal species that live in marine environments such as kelps; brown seaweeds that may grow to 180 feet. In tropical regions, coralline algae help build corals and support the formation of coral reefs and other species live in symbiosis with sponges.
Various algae maximize different components. Some species offer over 60% protein and others 90% carbohydrates. The food product, protein, of some species has little natural smell or taste so the product may take on the characteristics desired such as any smell, color, texture, density or taste. After the oil is extracted, the remaining biomass may contain 30% protein usable for food. It is also possible that the remaining biomass may contain more value than the extracted oils for components such as pigments, medicines, vaccines or nutraceuticals.