Algae are incredibly diverse organisms. They include seaweed, single cell microalgae, and cyanobacteria. And they are the most efficient organism on the planet for turning sunlight, carbon dioxide, and/or carbohydrates into biomass.
Algae have been used by humans for a variety of purposes for thousands of years, but we have only just scratched the surface of what algae can do to improve our environment, economy and daily lives.
Today, thanks to a wave of technological advances in the last several decades, algae are being used to produce many new sustainable products. Products made with algae include food, animal feed, cosmetics, and skin care, nutritional supplements, fertilizers, soil amendments, textiles, plastics, biofuels, and more.
A summary report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found that algae products, in the food, feed, fuel, and chemical sectors, could reach a potential market size of $320 billion by the year 2030. In addition, algae and algae bioproducts can provide a range of services including helping to restore ecosystems through removal of harmful blooms and contaminated waters as well as wastewater treatment.
Microalgae are naturally photosynthetic organisms but can be grown with or without light, and with systems that vary in complexity – from open ponds to closed photovoltaic reactors, to highly controlled fermentation systems.
Macroalgae (seaweeds) represent one of the world’s largest crops by volume. They are typically grown in coastal areas either in the open ocean or in natural water systems.
All of these production systems can have low environmental impacts by reducing the use of potable water, arable land, and energy. In many cases, algae production is climate resilient, and not subject to seasonality or geography. All algae require carbon dioxide (CO2) for growth, making them a unique and important part of reducing carbon in our atmosphere. Growing seaweed requires no fresh water or arable land and absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) helping to reduce acidification in the oceans. Microalgae can be grown in saltwater or wastewater, and can recycle nutrients that would otherwise pollute valuable ecosystems.
The algae industry is particularly important to rural communities, as many algae production facilities, operations and delivered ecosystem services are in rural areas. The industry employs a variety of positions, from field operators to scientists, to logistics experts and business development and sales professionals.
The development and use of algae products and services are rapidly expanding and will play an important role in addressing many of our health and environmental challenges globally. Our mission at ABO is to see the potential of algae fulfilled.
 Bobeck et. al., “Carbon utilization – a vital and effective pathway for decarbonization.” Summary Report. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, August 2019