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Revitalising sustainability practices with microalgae farming
16th February 2022 • The Vitafoods Insights Podcast • Informa Markets
00:00:00 00:10:28

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Understanding how chlorella microalgae farming can help tackle climate change and contribute to the 3 pillars of sustainability—people, planet, and profit.  

Climate change and the planet’s health concerns continue to be top of mind for many industry stakeholders and consumers seeking sustainable changes. Agricultural practices and ingredient sourcing plays a role in that.  For this sustainability podcast episode, Marieke Smidt, commercial director at Duplaco, joined us to talk about macroalgae farming. 

Tune in to hear more about:

  • Duplaco's mission and the key problems being addressed by vertical farming
  • What the production process of microalgae looks like and the technologies involved 
  • The benefits of microalgae farming in enclosed environments to improve sustainability and climate health within food production
  • How microalgae can be implemented into different nutraceutical products—which delivery formats should brand owners consider and the benefits for the end consumer as well
  • Insights into the next 5 to 10 years for the microalgae industry

Guest: Marieke Smidt, commercial director at Duplaco 

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Transcripts

Vitafoods Insights:

Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast. From responsible sourcing to supply chain logistics, this dedicated podcast addresses some of the industry's greatest challenges and champions the stories of sustainability success. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.

Natalia:

Hello, and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights Sustainability episode. Today we'll be talking about microalgae farming, and I'm delighted to be joined by Marieke Smidt, who is the commercial director at Duplaco. Thanks for joining me today, Marieke.

Marieke:

Thank you for inviting me.

Natalia:

I'm really looking forward to delve more into chlorella microalgae and learning more about microalgae farming. So, to get us started, could you please explain to our listeners more about Duplaco's mission and the key problems being addressed by the vertical farming? What is the production process of microalgae look like and what technology is involved?

Marieke:

We grow microalgae to revitalise people and the planets. The key problem is that climate change and a growing world population and danger food security, we need to switch to food cultivation methods that provide in all nutrients and then with a minimal land, water and energy use and that is also resilient to extreme weather and climate conditions. And we do that using our unique and highly efficient fermentation technology, which then very efficiently convert resources into clean enrich chlorella, micro algae, rich in protein fibres and vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is cultivated in a closed system, free from contaminants, like heavy metals or dioxins. And the key of our unique methodology is that we can maintain the circumstances for algae to grow around a constant ideal level; very pleasant, basically, for these chlorella microalgae, and therefore translating into a unique high growth rates and very efficient conversion. And that may sound a bit technical, but essentially means that we can grow essential nutrients like protein with very little resources in a very short period of time. And on a daily basis. We have no harvest seasons; we can harvest every day. And we do not first need to, for example, grow and feed a cow for five years before it is being slaughtered to put meat on the table.

Natalia:

Can you expand a little bit more on how can microalgae farming enclosed environments improve sustainability and climate health within food production?

Marieke:

Yeah, of course. It basically allows us to skip the middleman, enabling us to feed the world without the need for animals in our food chain, making it much more sustainable. The essence is the efficient conversion, I already mentioned, of the resources and a rapid growth rate. We now focus on the gold facial of chlorella, which in protein and with all essential amino acids in there, as it is impossible basically to feed the growing global population with a diet that is primarily based on animal protein like it is today. Our planet is simply too small to allow for such a diet. Sorry to say it, but it's killing nature and killing for people as well. Because now for example, so many routes are being destroyed to turn the woodland into agricultural lands necessary to grow feed for the animals. And these woods are necessary to provide us with oxygen and destroying the woods among others means we are destroying our oxygen supply. We simply have to change ourselves, but more so future generations to live. Our algae can be cultivated on a small surface, and we can cultivate anywhere. So, we can use a surface that is not arable for crops as location for our cultivation. Food cultivation using fermentation is what we see the fast way forward to revitalise people and the planet.

Natalia:

It definitely sounds like farming fermentation is helping with tackling the three pillars of sustainability especially with the focus on environmental sustainability. That's very cool and interesting to hear. And now with our listeners in mind, what nutraceutical products can implement these microalgae, which delivery formats should brand owners consider and what are the benefits for the end consumer as well?

Marieke:

There are many possibilities and also many benefits, so difficulties maybe to choose. Powder, for example, can be used in green juices, protein shakes, breakfast cereals, energy bars, as well as fish, meat and dairy alternatives. And we may not think of meat, fish and dairy alternatives as nutraceutical products, per se. I believe we can also shoot raise the bar for these product categories and aim for products that are actually better than the animal-based version in terms of taste texture, but also in terms of nutritional profile, as well as, or sustainability profile. And there's always a lot of emphasis on the importance of protein, which is fair enough. But what about the importance of dietary fibres? And what if meat alternatives, for example, would also include this? that will give it a serious plus versus meat, fish or dairy products. I think that would be really great. And our chlorella, of course, also can be pressed into tablets, which we also do ourselves to be used as a supplement. It is currently used for different primarily nutritional benefits. People use it to detox because it is rich in antioxidants, all those food dietary fibres for good health, as a source of plant-based protein or for the rich combination of all of these, the combination of protein, fibres, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Natalia:

So, there is quite a few options for brand owners to implement chlorella in their final finished products, and sounds like there is a lot of advantage as well. As you mentioned, the nutritional profile it offers. But what about the key challenges with microalgae adoption and implementation within finished products? Can you talk a little bit more about the challenges?

Marieke:

Well, the green colour of the traditional green chlorella is the key challenge for adoption in fish, meat and dairy alternatives, but also for some shakes, cereals and bars. This is also why we developed our Duplaco Gold launched in November last year. Thanks to natural breeding methodologies, it hardly contains any colour pigments, which would otherwise be responsible for this typical green colour of foods to which chlorella has been added. The next step we are working on is white chlorella, free from colour, taste also, and free from aroma. And that will enable your widest variety of application opportunities.

Natalia:

That's really interesting that the colour of green is considered challenge and also really interesting you're looking at different colours and also the aroma aspects of chlorella. So now looking to the future, what would you say the next 5 to 10 years looks like for the microalgae industry?

Marieke:

Well, the key to enable successful both people, planets and profitability will be twofold. One is to realise economy and ecology of scale that go to fade clean average microalgae as sustainable as possible and very cost effective. The other is to develop the white micro algae I just mentioned, rich in essential nutrients like protein fibres, and for example, also omega-3 fatty acids, and a free form, colour, taste and aroma to enable this large range of application opportunities, as well as consumer acceptance.

Natalia:

There is a lot of things going to happen in the industry of microalgae in the next few years. That's amazing. And thank you so much Marieke, for sharing more about this industry with us today. I'm sure it's also been very insightful to our listeners. And just before we end the show, do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our audience joining us today?

Marieke:

First, thank you for inviting me again, it is a pleasure to share thoughts with the audience. As a final thought, I would like to invite the listeners basically to take into account the total costs in use when they take the opportunity to revaluate their supply chain, including not only the cost per kilogramme, but also the cost of not being able to deliver, costs of extra analysis to check on contaminations, cost of recalls, cost of transport etc. There may be a lot to win, from an economic, as well as an ecologic point. And, not to forget, also in terms of work pleasure when choosing for reliable and sustainable.

Natalia:

Fantastic. Cost considerations is always of interest for brand owners out there, so thanks so much for sharing this last inside. And once again, thank you so much for coming on the show. And thank you also to our listeners for tuning in. If you're interested in learning more about Duplaco, make sure to check out their website hyperlink which will be made available in the show notes. And that's it for now, until next time.

Vitafoods Insights:

Thank you for tuning in. And don't forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast, as well as any sponsorship opportunities. The Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast happens monthly, so be sure to stay tuned, subscribe, and even suggest the series to a friend.

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