[Netherlands] Microscopic green algae may be the scourge of swimming pools, but scientists and businesses have started cultivating them on a large scale to explore how they could in fact improve our lives in a sustainable way.
Microalgae contain a variety of valuable oils, proteins, antioxidants and vitamins, making them a highly productive natural resource that can be used in animal and human food, cosmetics and even plastics.
Futuris met with the scientists working on a European research project – fittingly named “MIRACLES” – that aims to make this dream economically viable.
Convenient and ‘aesthetic’
The Wageningen university and research centre in the Netherlands, which specialises in healthy food and living environment, has been studying microalgae in transparent tubes filled with sea water for the past 20 years.
Good news: microalgae are very easy to work with. Sea water, carbon dioxide, basic nutrients and sunlight are all they need to live and multiply very rapidly.
In other words, microalgae have the potential to spawn a whole new kind of agriculture that does not rely on arable land or fresh water.
“We grow them in sea water, and you have very few agricultural crops that can grow in sea water. We can put these systems on land which is not fertile, we can go to the desert, we can use land that’s not available for agriculture,” says Hans Reith, MIRACLES project coordinator.
Microalgae are also “a nice-looking organism,” says the project’s exploitation officer, Philippe Willems.
“You have it in green, you have it in red, you can have it in yellow. It’s aesthetic, and you can use it for that purpose,” he said, showing two slabs of bioplastics, as well as a flower pot, made from microalgae. “Here, we tried to use the nutritional value that you have in algae… this bioplastic will degrade slowly in a water environment, and slowly release the nutrients,” he explained.
View original article at: Green gold in our seawater