by Mark Edwards
Editor’s note: With this installment we begin our serialization of Dr. Mark Edwards latest book about the future of food, and algae’s role in supporting the nutritional needs of an expanding population. But first a little background:
Will our children have enough food?
What kinds of foods will be available?
How will food be grown and produced?
Will future foods be healthier for people?
Can foods both prevent and treat disease?
Will foods still cause obesity and diabetes?
What about sufficient, high quality protein?
Where and how will future foods be grown?
What about taste, color, texture, and aroma?
What about social justice; fair access to food?
Will there be enough cropland and fresh water?
How will people embrace and adopt new foods?
Will food production be healthier for our planet?
Will there be enough fossil fuels and ag chemicals?
na Feeds our World describes the adoption and diffusion of sustainable, healthy and affordable algae-based food for plants, animals and people. Ana identifies and celebrates the many miracles algae has contributed to our planet and our society.
Does Ana suggest that algae alone will feed the world? No. Ana creates the architecture for the roadmap for how and why algae will enter the food supply chain to create sustainable and healthier nutrition for people, animals and plants. The substantial contributions from algae promise to capture and biocycle carbon and other nutrients that reverse climate chaos while cleaning air, water, soil and ecosystems. Every ton of algae recovers, recycles and reuses two tons of CO2. Algae farmers are carbon farmers who will cultivate superior foods, feeds, fertilizers, and fibers, as well as a wide array of other valuable bioproducts.
Ana shares how the lowest plant on the food chain creates a food renaissance with foods that are superior in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds. These foods are substantially more sustainable, productive and affordable than industrial foods. Ana provides novel solutions for critical issues for our food future; protein, cropland, water, energy, fertilizer, pesticides, pollution and climate chaos. Ana is written for our next generation of algapreneurs, business, and political leaders, and thoughtful people who desire to make our world better.
Ana’s chapter structure describes the “what, why and how” to make the critical actions for successful algae integration into the food supply. The first three chapters examine the unique biological and food advantages provided by single-celled organisms and microcrops, such as algae.
Ana, a foodie, grew up in food paradise, San Francisco, which is one of the wealthiest, most beautiful and innovative cities in the world. She was shocked to see the San Francisco Chronicle headline in May 2017 that 1 in 4 people in San Francisco are food insecure and hungry. How could so many people suffer from hunger in a land of plenty?
She found that San Francisco made #6 on the USDA’s list of the unhealthiest food deserts. Families in food deserts have access only to processed, calorie-dense foods high in sugar, fat and salt. Junk food leads to obesity, diabetes and other serious health issues.
Ana’s passion about food extends to food justice; democratic access to affordable healthy food. She learned that the rest of America and the world also suffered food injustice. Over 50 million Americans are food insecure. Over 20% of the children in 22 states live in food-insecure households. Ana’s present world has 7.3 billion mouths to feed, but modern industrial agriculture has failed. The UN WHO estimates that 3 billion people, are malnourished; deficient in calories, protein, micronutrients or vitamins. By 2040, Ana’s world will have over 9 billion hungry people on our perilously hot, dry and hungry planet.
Ana studied sustainable systems in graduate school at Arizona State University, where she fell in love with algae. She worried about what her children would do for food and wondered if microcrops might deliver. Her professor ignited her life’s mission with a simple parable.
Give Ana food and resolve her hunger for a day.
Teach Ana to grow abundant food in Peace Microfarms,
And she can feed her family and community forever.
Allow Ana to share her knowledge, and Ana can feed the world.
This is the fascinating story of Ana’s path forward to apply her ingenuity and to engage her social network in her quest for food justice – locally and globally. Ana’s passion for eco-smart, single-celled organisms forms the foundation for her incredible journey.
Our Nanocrop Path to Eco-Smart Foods
When has the global need for a miraculous “thrive package” containing all the essential proteins and nutrients to sustain life ever been greater? Over half our world’s people are hungry and a billion are malnourished. We have more migrants, homeless and hungry people now than any time in world history. Half our global neighbors will go to bed hungry tonight.
Modern food production has become dependent on increasingly scarce fossil natural resources. “Fossil food” produced by industrial scale agriculture placed a huge bet on a few monocultures that survive only in good weather and then, only in the absence of serious pest vectors.
We need solutions that resolve hunger with methods that provide for both our rich and poor, and our rural and urban communities. The solution should maximize the sustainability triple bottom line. Ana’s solution addresses many constraints and grows good food that:
- Enhances health and vitality for every plant, animal and person.
- Is affordable and sustainable so that it creates food justice – access to good food by everyone.
- Reduces the physical risk of food production and enables social justice – good jobs independent of gender, race or religion.
- Preserves, protects and replenishes fossil resources and natural ecosystems for our following generations
- Thrives with magnificent biodiversity independent of altitude, latitude, geography, politics or climate.
- Is carbon neutral or negative and moderates rather than accelerates climate change and global air, water and soil pollution.
- Produces local to consumers to minimize transportation.
- Creates a positive eco-footprint while improving the health of local, regional and global ecosystems.
Microcrops are astonishing nano-cell factories with extraordinary capabilities to elevate industrial agriculture crop and animal production. Microcrops will grow superior nutrition for the strong cellular metabolism of plants, animals and people.
Algae and her cousins, other nano-sized single-celled organisms, will transform modern industrial and organic agriculture more in the next 20 years than the 65-year Green Revolution. That revolution was not green. Productivity came from fossil sources; massive expansion in cropland, irrigation, fossil fuels, chemical fertilizer, pesticides and poisons, as well as new hybrid and transgenic modified seeds.
The next food renaissance will engage green biotechnologies that produce healthier foods with minimal or no fossil resources. Freedom foods liberate growers from fossil resource consumption and deliver superior nutrition and taste without pollution and waste. Nutrient cycling with single-celled organisms will replace “one-and-done” fossil agriculture with its constant extraction, consumption and pollution.
Freedom foods made from microcrops will redesign our food supply from the foundation of the food chain, made with both single and multicellular organisms. Freedom foods free consumers for smart food choices, free growers for eco-smart production, and free ecosystems of waste and pollution.
Abundance growing methods free farmers from reliance on fossil resources because growers can recover and repurpose precious nutrients from waste streams to grow clean, healthy food. Farmers will embrace an efficient net-zero carbon food production system that preserves rather than consumes natural resources.
Algae nano cells offer an array of advantages that are unavailable in land plants. Each tiny algae cell packages the essential nutrients for multi-cellular life – plants, animals and humans. All plants evolved from algae 500 million years ago. All the nutrition, colors and healthy compounds in modern crops and vegetable produce are also available in algae.
Microcrops grown in Peace Microfarms flourish with biodiversity 100 times greater than industrial agriculture. Microcrops offer far more cultivar choices for growing food, biofeed, biofertilizer and other bioproducts. Microcrop nano-cell biofactories can produce excellent food, significantly faster, independent of weather or climate.
Peace microfarms liberate growers from dependence on increasingly expensive cropland, fresh water, fossil fuels, chemical fertilizer and other non-renewable resources. Peace microfarms avoid conflict, and possibly war, over diminishing natural resources by using abundance methods that cycle nutrients to grow microcrops.
Natural resource over-consumption and pollution cannot be addressed without engaging the agribusiness community. Microcrop nano cell biofactories will make the biggest impact to world food supplies by providing stronger nutrition for plant and animal production in existing industrial farms.
Abundance growing methods reduce risk, costs and pain for modern industrial farmers. Algae biofertilizer improves yields while reducing farmers’ dependence on chemical fertilizer. Algae biofertilizer ends hidden hunger by increasing field crop nutralence – nutrient quality, density, diversity and bioavailability. Algae biofertilizer also improves crop stress tolerance to weather and pests, while substantially reducing fertilizer and pesticide pollution. Abundance methods clean degraded and polluted ecosystems. In some cases, algae biofertilizers can bring abandoned cropland back to life by restoring soil fertility.
Algae biofeeds deliver similar benefits for animal farmers. Biofeeds enhance animal growth and development, improve survivability, and reduce waste because the feeds deliver higher nutralence. Field tests have shown animal products and meat grown with algae biofeeds have superior color, texture and taste, while delivering more protein and other nutrients per bite and healthier fats.
Microcrops, the foundation of this food renaissance, includes the full spectrum of microorganisms including algae, yeast, fungi, bacteria, archaea, plankton and many others. The focus here will be on algae, but these other microcrops offer similar benefits.
Food grains (e.g. rice, soy, corn and wheat) make up about 80% of the world’s food supply today. I predict that by 2040, algae-based foods will replace 60% of the food grain products. Algae texturized meats, (think tofu vegiburgers) will replace 40% of the meat products and provide enhanced nutrition, texture and taste with 90% less pollution and waste. Algae protein bars, power drinks and food additives will give consumers stronger nutrition, more nutralence, at substantially lower cost than today’s protein products.
Algae biofertilizer will replace 70% of the inorganic fertilizer currently applied to field crops. Algae biofeed will replace 30% to 60% of animal feed, depending on the animal, and 90% of fish feed. Plants and animals are what they eat, so the resulting foods will contain various expressions of algae nutrients.
In a broader context, algae bioproducts will replace large numbers of products that today are made from plants and animals, including 50% to 90% of cosmetics, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, vitamin and mineral supplements, medicines, green chemicals and plastics.
These changes will occur because algae nano cell biofactories provide higher quality target compounds substantially faster than industrial agriculture. Bioproducts contain fewer contaminants, at lower cost.
Algae’s tiny cell size create an ideal delivery system for bioproducts such as cosmetics, nutritional products and medicines. Consumers want the best functionality, which they will get with the multiple sustainable competitive advantages provided nano biofactories. When consumers have a choice of two similarly priced items, they will make climate and eco-friendly choices. Their choice will be made easier with healthier products at lower cost.
Agriculture emits nearly 20% of the global CO2. The algae microcrop food revolution will cut pollution by half, which will moderate climate chaos. Abundance methods recover and reuse carbon and other nutrients rather than polluting the atmosphere and local ecosystems.
Fossil agriculture currently consumes 92% of all fresh water globally. Abundance methods can cut fresh water consumption for food production by at least half. Peace microfarms can use non-potable water for safe and healthy biofeed and biofertilizer production. Other microfarms can clean wastewater, as algae has done for decades. Clean water may contribute more value to the community than the rich, nutritious biomass.
Peace microfarms produce 30 to 72 times more food per section of land every year than modern agriculture. Microfarms do not require cropland and scale to any size. Microfarmers may produce food practically anywhere, including cities. Microfarms with nano-cell biofactories will enable Beijing, New Delhi, New York, Jakarta, Buenos Aries and Athens to grow 80% of their food in the city.
Microfarmers recover low cost nutrients from sterilized waste streams and transform them into freedom foods and other valuable bioproducts. Growers use abundance methods to assure a sustainable food supply for many generations. Microcrop bioproducts can transform our food future from extractive to sustainable, but the transition will not be simple. If supplying Ana’s world with abundant good food were easy, it would already have been done.
Single-celled organisms will leverage the future of our food, but only with the cooperation of industrial and organic farmers. The keys to engagement lie in creating strong benefits in bioproducts to improve yields and quality of legacy food crops, while reducing costs. Algae nutritional bioproducts will upgrade health and vitality for plants, animals and humans and lead the way to our shared future with net-zero carbon food production.
A Note to Readers: Algae Foundation students will receive a free color PDF of Ana Feeds Our World by 2040 as part of their educational curriculum in algae’s promise to improve society and our planet. The protocol here uses hyperlinks rather than footnotes. Hyperlinks allow instantaneous access to journal articles, key websites and educational videos from students’ electronic devices. Readers who want footnotes may email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional supportive resources are available at the Algae Foundation, Algae Industry Magazine, Algae 101, Smart Microfarms, Spirulina Source, and the Algae Competition.com.
The Algae Foundation led by Ike Levine, promotes the power of algae to transform the human race and the environment upon which it depends. The Algae Foundation facilitates a future in which algae are a fundamental source of energy, nutrition, bioproducts and ecological services for sustainable societies globally. To accomplish its mission, the Algae Foundation engages in and funds educational outreach. Ana Feeds Our World assists in our educational mission.
Metrics provide your best scientific guidance for solving challenges and selecting the best alternative. Nature’s most common metric, a 20% difference, occurs in many natural settings. Scientists call it a significant difference. You will see many comparisons here between terrestrial plants and single-celled organisms. One may display a 10x advantage, which is 1000%, but may be referred to as an “order of magnitude.” By 2025, algae will enjoy a 100x productivity advantage over field grains including corn, soy, wheat and rice for protein, oil, sugar and essential nutrients. Algae foods already deliver 100x the nutralence available from land-based foods. Improvement in abundance growing methods will produce algae foods with 1000x more nutralence than legacy crops.
Some of these projections for algae’s ability to recover and cycle nutrients, to reduce waste and pollution and to improve health and vitality may seem like science fiction. They are not fantasy because they are backed by empirical evidence from years of scientific R&D. Algae has successfully cycled nutrients from commercial wastewater systems in the US for over 50 years.
Algae have already performed over 25 amazing miracles that improve societies, which are listed in Appendix I. Algae have performed only about 5% of her miracles to date.
She needs your help to create her next miracles. We look forward to your engagement in nanotechnology to make Ana’s quest for food justice a reality for your family and for our global community.
Next installment: How will Single-Celled Organisms Transform Food?