By Mark P. Allen, P.E.
This month ABO’s Board of Directors welcomes Jill Kauffman Johnson, Head of Global Market Development, Algae Ingredients at Corbion as our new Chair. Jill brings exactly the kind of experience in science, product commercialization and public policy that can take this industry into the next chapter of development.
For the past two years, I have served as Chair of ABO’s Board of Directors, and it has been incredibly rewarding to have a front row seat to all this organization is doing to advance algae as a new sustainable technology platform.
When ABO was first founded, much of the conversation was about the potential for algae to revolutionize biofuel markets. That work is still going strong, but perhaps the greater impact of this industry has been the hundreds of other applications that blossomed as the fuel work was underway. Jill’s work with Corbion developing algae-based omega-3s for salmon feed and other products is a leading example.
ABO is now welcoming a diversity of members from aquaculture, animal feed, human food ingredients, soil health, wastewater treatments, materials, clothing, plastics and more. All of them are finding ways for algae to be a sustainable source of products and services. It is an explosion of diversity few of us anticipated when we opened ABO for business 15 years ago.
Many of these new possibilities can be traced back to cutting-edge research and development projects sponsored by federal agencies. That research was conducted at universities, national laboratories and in collaborations between private entrepreneurs and publicly supported partners. It is a technology development model that has been successful in other sectors, such as in the early days of the internet, and it is now paying dividends for the algae industry as well.
Agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy have been able to drive this research largely because of the Congressional support that was built early on when ABO helped organize the Congressional Algae Caucus. This bipartisan group of elected officials recognized that a robust algae industry could be a great asset to the United States’ economic, environmental and energy security.
ABO’s voice has helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars for advanced R&D, and more support is on the way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now making algae farming a priority, and an interagency working group is coordinating research underway at a growing constellation of federal agencies.
What comes next will push algae into an even larger world of collaboration and innovation. Today, ABO is working with a coalition to establish an Algae Center of Excellence (ACE). ACE is designed to facilitate coordination and funding among companies, researchers, investors, farmers, product developers and other stakeholders that will accelerate and broaden commercialization of algae products in areas of food, feed, biomaterials, soil health, wastewater treatment, and beyond. ACE will help unlock a market potential for algae that could exceed $300 billion by 2030.
We will explore much of that market potential at the upcoming 2020 Algae Biomass Summit, which is being re-tooled into a virtual experience that will welcome a global audience. This year a series of Industry Spotlights sessions will kick off the Summit and explore how algae is impacting food markets, polymer production, carbon capture and more. They will be valuable sessions for anybody interested in harnessing the potential of algae.
It has been a pleasure to see the arc of a new technology being deployed into the world. ABO has been diligent from the beginning, and has become a vital voice for the algae industry. For those looking to become involved from a scientific, technological or commercial perspective, ABO has become an indispensable point of contact.
I am honored to have had the chance to serve as Board Chair, and even more honored to pass the torch to Jill. She has been a part of the algae technology arc throughout her own career, and will be an invaluable resource for ABO members as we enter the next phase.
I thank every ABO member that is working at every junction of this exciting industry. As a result of your support, we are well positioned to sustain a rapid pace of growth. Keep up the good work.
Mark P. Allen, P.E.
ABO Board of Directors
Vice President, Accelergy