Yum yum. The slimy superfood of the future
Should we live on algae? Scientists have suggested that to feed everyone sustainably,
we need to look to the sludge that grows on the surface of the sea
Does your mouth water when you see green sludge floating in the river? The answer is probably no! But you might be looking at the future of food all
the same. Climate change, urbanisation and damage to soil mean that less and less farmland is available to feed more and more people.
One solution that scientists point to is eating more algae. This is a term for a group of plantlike organisms that grow in water, including kelp, seaweed and pond scum. Like plants, algae produce energy from sunlight. Unlike plants, they do not have roots, stems or leaves. This means that they are more nutrient dense than most plants. They contain more protein and fatty acids.
Some even classify them as a “superfood”. Algae can be grown using wastewater and using one tenth of the land needed for more common crops. At the moment, for example, much of the protein needed for both humans and livestock comes from soybeans. But growing soybeans needs huge amounts of
water and is often linked to cutting down trees in the Amazon. Algae does not need space and it actually absorbs CO2.
According to the UN, 828 million people went hungry in 2021. While companies are still working out the best ways to grow algae, it seems clear that we
will need it to deal with the growing food challenges of the future.