Sometimes overlooked in conversations about aglae-based biofuels is the fact that algae is also a feedstock for feed, nutritional supplements, fertilizers, chemicals and much more. The production of algal biofuels also creates significant quantities of biomass that can be used for a range of coproducts—the result is additional revenue streams for algae producers.
For those companies working toward an ultimate goal of accessing fuel markets, the co-product markets available today are acting as stepping stones in their efforts to increase production. In many cases these other markets are turning into a viable business model for algae companies.
Much like any agricultural product, the algae industry minimizes waste by using all the materials that come from harvesting and processing its product. Algal oils are often used in fuels and chemicals, but the remaining biomass of carbohydrates and proteins is also useful to many different industries.
In this video, ABO board member Dr. Ike Levine describes the value of algae co-products, and how some of them have been used by humans for thousands of years.
Just a few of the valuable products that algae can provide:
Nutrition: The human body is incapable of producing omega-3 fatty acids, which play a critical role in brain function and development. Historically, omega-3’s have been obtained through eating seafood and soy products. Algae can be used to create omega-3’s, which will help take some of the strain off of the overharvested fish populations.
Animal Feed: Due to the algae’s rapid growth and high proportion of vitamins and micronutrients, algae possess excellent properties and potential for animal feed, especially for aquatic creature like fish, clams, oysters, mussels and more. They can also be grown with a smaller impact on land and water resources.
Chemicals: Paints and glues can benefit from algae’s properties, and creating chemicals like fertilizers from algae offers a sustainable alternative to those derived from petroleum.
Cosmetics: Several companies offer anti-aging creams and other cosmetics that are manufactured from algae. Foundation products and coloring in cosmetics are also often made from algal ingredients.
We don’t have to wait for algae fuels to take advantage of this organism’s potential. Algae companies are already providing these products, and many more will be marketed in the near future.
You can learn more about algae co-products at the algae education site AllAboutAlgae.com.