Duckweed, also known as “water lentil” or “lemna”, is an aquatic plant that has become one of the most sustainable and nutrient-dense plants to cultivate in the world. According to a new market report, the trade of its protein is growing, mainly because of the increase in the vegan population. The market value stands at $71M and is set to surpass $165M in the next decade. Duckweed protein is expected to contribute around 1.1% to 1.8% of worldwide plant-based protein demand. In the wild, it can be spread by waterfowl and small mammals, transported inadvertently on their feet and bodies.

Duckweed crops can double their biomass in a matter of days. Martens and van de Ven co-runs Plantible Foods in San Diego, California, one of the major producers of duckweed. He said to Veconomist, “On average, lemna doubles in mass every 36 hours, while it can be grown year-round. This results in a very stable and consistent but also scalable supply of biomass. Other plant-based protein sources have annual crop cycles and are therefore more prone to the ever-increasing unpredictable weather patterns.”.  

One of the unique properties of this plant is that it has been proven it is a natural source of Vitamin B12. This means that those vegans who, for whatever reason, don’t want to take supplements or fortified food, could obtain this vital vitamin from this plant. As a consequence, this aquatic marvel has been referred to as the world’s most complete food source. It is estimated that the US would account for more than 77.9% of the North American market share of duckweed protein, China for nearly 54.2% of the East Asia market share, and Germany is expected to dominate the Europe market with 22.5%.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.