Seaweed farming in Indonesia

Monica Jain of Fish 2.0 writes in National Geographic about how the algae brand is about to undergo an image makeover, and may soon seem flat-out glamorous — once again. Algae got a lot of excited press a few years ago as a potential biofuel, but they’re turning out to be a sustainable super-ingredient with transformative potential in several massive industries: fish and other animal feeds, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, nutritional supplements, bioplastics and fertilizers. They’re also gaining favor as a vegetarian seafood. In all, the market for algae products could reach nearly $45 billion by 2023, according to a 2016 Credence Research market analysis.

Fish 2.0, an information provider for investors in the sustainable seafood sector, is tracking ventures growing microalgae as feed for shellfish or an ingredient in fish feeds, as well as growing algae to create needed jobs, especially for women in coastal communities. Some sell the algae they harvest to pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies; others sell to food companies.

And entrepreneurs, Fish 2.0 observes, increasingly are processing the algae themselves to make seaweed snacks, garnishes and products for the natural foods sector and the Japanese restaurant market – a trend that increases the value communities can capture from their algae products, as well as communities’ interest in starting such enterprises.

U.S. retail sales of seaweed snacks grew about 30 percent in 2014, reaching more than $250 million, and launches in the category have surged in the past two years. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are studying algae-based products for use in combatting colds, flu, tumors, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and a range of other conditions. And the cosmetics industry is finding that algae can have anti-acne, anti-aging, and other beneficial effects.

Algae’s uses are so varied it’s difficult to know where to focus. Fish 2.0’s one-page Investment Insights overview of the algae market suggests that investors and entrepreneurs of algae businesses have “a real opportunity to preserve ocean habitats and enable coastal communities to thrive – while producing natural solutions for disease control, nutrition and skin care.”

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