Marine plants as an alternative source of food
Growth needs new ideas. Among other things, K+S Innovation Labs is working on concepts for ensuring global food supply, including technologies and processes as well as digital ideas. This work represents an important supplement to our established plant nutrient products - for example, in our pilot project for the cultivation of marine plants.
Algae as food source
The world population is growing steadily and with it the importance of alternative foods and protein sources. At K+S Innovation Labs, we test whether it is possible to cultivate seaweed in a laboratory facility and whether we can cultivate and use these plants in an economically viable manner in the near future.
Marine algae contain many nutrients. In Asia and America, they are already increasingly on the menu. They could therefore be part of a solution to provide the world's growing population with sufficient food and protein in the future. In addition, the raw material carrageenan can be extracted from the cell walls of certain types of algae. It is used in the food industry, for example, as a gelling agent or emulsifier.
At present, algae requirements are mainly met by Asian aquacultures. In the long term, however, this will not be sufficient in view of rising global demand.
Pilot project at Sigmundshall site
At the Sigmundshall site in Wunstorf, Lower Saxony, K+S has set up an innovation park for testing and applying new business segments. Here, we breed various types of algae. In the pilot project, we want to find out whether it is worth investing in further developed test series and whether the cultivation of macroalgae on an industrial scale is economical.
Growing algae in the laboratory, however, could be worthwhile not only because of rising demand. The plants growing here could also be of higher quality than marine algae from conventional aquacultures. These are frequently contaminated with pollutants such as heavy metals or microplastics or have an increased content of iodine or radioactivity.
The pilot project is supported by the external consultant Prof. Dr. Klaus Lüning, marine biologist and botanist from Sylter Algenfarm GmbH & Co. KG.
Future fields of application
More than 150 algae species are already being used commercially. Their valuable ingredients are not only used in the food and cosmetics industries. Algae also contain active ingredients that can be used to combat viruses, bacteria, and fungi. This also makes them attractive for the pharmaceutical industry.
For some years now, marine plants have also been increasingly the focus of the energy industry. All over the world, processes are being worked on in order to produce algae biodiesel in an economically effective way.
Biogas can also be produced from algae. Fuel cells could even be operated with hydrogen algae: It can be obtained by putting microalgae on a " sulfur diet ". The metabolism is lowered. Excess energy generated during photosynthesis is then disposed of by the algae producing hydrogen.