Algae Nutrient Composition for Biofeed
by Dr. Mark Edwards
lgae biomass provides excellent nutritional value for biofeed. Lipids are long carbon chain molecules. Lipids store energy for the plant and serve as the structural components of cells. Proteins are large organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain connected by peptide bonds. The plant’s genetic code determines the sequence of the amino acids, but nutrient limitations may cause changes to the production of amino acids. Most proteins are enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and plant metabolism. Other proteins maintain cell shape and provide signaling functions. Starches are complex carbohydrates which are insoluble in water. Plants use starches to store glucose as plant sugar.
The composition among algae species varies tremendously. Some algae hold 80% lipids while others are 60% protein, and still others are 92% carbohydrates. Species selection is critical, not just for the desired composition, but for a host of micronutrients and growth biostimulants that vary widely across species and strains.
Algae varieties offer almost infinite combinations of features and useful bioactive compounds. Special attributes such as omega-3 oil production are being enhanced through selection screens for naturally occurring organisms and mutagenesis, which is similar to a rapid hybridization process. Some companies are modifying algae to express more, (or less) of certain compounds. Algae biofeeds will become far more desirable as specialty compounds that help animals with digestion, biosorption, and protection against pathogens are discovered and used in algae cultivars.
Algae biofeed provides the full set of essential nutrients for animals. Considerable research focuses on protein quality, which varies across various species of terrestrial plants and algae. Unsurprisingly, different types of animals grow faster and better with different proteins and micronutrients.
Algae composition displays some variation by season. Therefore, algae biofeed formulation requires continuous monitoring, which is similar to field grains. Traditional crops such as corn are often mixed with antibiotics to improve digestion. Other supplements such as omega-3s may also be added. Algae biofeed can eliminate pharmaceuticals and feed additives. Various algae species provide different amounts of each specialty oils.
- Linoleic acid, LA, a non-essential unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid used for soaps, emulsifiers, quick-drying oils and a wide variety of beauty aids.
- Arachidonic acid, AA, is an omega-6 fatty acid but is not essential. It may moderate inflammation and plays a role in the operation of the central nervous system.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid that gives the same benefits as fish oil.
- Docasahexaenoic acid, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid is the most abundant fatty acid found in the brain and retina. DHA deficiency causes cognitive decline and increases neural cell death.
- Gamma-linolenic acid, GLA an omega-6 fatty acid that fights inflammation.
Many species are tolerant of wide variations in growing conditions. Some species are nearly blind to geography.
The table on the right displays compositional ranges for popular cultivars shown as a percentage of dry weight, (dw).