GA’s Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on algal-based protein.

GA’s Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on algal-based protein.

Expanding from its initial work in algal biofuels, General Atomic’s (GA’s) Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on the rising need for food globally, specifically in the area of algal-based protein.

GA’s Energy and Advanced Concepts Group has been developing algae production technologies since 2005, and these efforts have resulted in the development of a low-cost, massively scalable, end-to-end algae growth platform, including a library of proprietary algae strains.

Algae have no anti-nutrients (unlike terrestrial protein sources), and have a protein content and amino acid profile similar to that of fishmeal. The estimated algae production cost at scale is very favorable relative to the current and estimated future price of fishmeal.

Earth’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, a 50% increase from 2000. With such growth rates, the ability of the world to feed itself will become increasingly more difficult. Environmental factors and limitations on water, land, energy and other vital resources will further stress food production. New technologies that do not compete with current food production resources and processes are urgently needed to support the growing demand.

The food category in greatest demand is meat protein, and a major component of meat protein production is fish. With current wild-caught fish production at approximately 60 million metric tons per year and expected to remain relatively unchanged in the future, the increasing demand for fish can only be satisfied from expanded aquaculture production.

Aquaculture production currently relies on fishmeal as the primary source of protein in marine species’ diets, which is in very limited supply. Thus, a new source of protein for aquafeed that is not derived from the world’s oceans and does not compete with current food production is required.

The technologies comprising the General Atomic algae growth platform have been focused on the production of high-protein algal biomass for use as a partial or complete replacement for fishmeal in future commercial aquaculture feeds.