Google’s famous kitchens may serve fake shrimp made of algae

[USA] Americans love them some shrimp. Annually, they eat over a billion pounds of the little guys, making shrimp the nation’s most popular seafood. But the journey from seven seas to cocktail sauce isn’t always the friendliest for the environment—or for the laborers who shell your seafood. So biotech New Wave Foods is trying to create a sustainable replacement for shrimp … by building really, really convincing crustaceans out of red algae.

“What we try to do is look at the molecular structure of shrimp to understand what gives it textural components like elasticity,” says Dominique Barnes, the company’s CEO and co-founder. The final product, a mix of algae and plant proteins, is such a good mimic that Google’s chef has pledged to switch to the algae shrimp in the first few months of 2017, according to New Wave. It’s an exciting technology that could also be an environmental improvement on the overseas shrimp farming that dominates the market—if it manages to scale up right.

Compared with shrimp farming, Barnes says, “looking at land use, water use, transportation of the product—ours is much less intensive.” Shrimp farms spent decades depleting mangrove forests by filling them with disease-filled waste. In just a few decades, this process destroyed 38 percent of the world’s mangroves. One group of researchers calculated that by the pound, shrimp’s carbon footprint was ten timesthat of beef.

 

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