Two research teams in India and the Netherlands have identified two microalgae, Chlorella and Galdieria, as great promise to become sources of commercially viable alternatives to animal proteins. The fact that they can be cultivated without the need to harvest crops (with the accidental animal deaths they can cause) would make them an ideal source of nutrients in the vegan world of the future.

Researchers at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) have identified the Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) from the microalga Chlorella sorokiniana as a compound with great potential. Their study, titled “Amino acids rich biomass cultivation: Trophic mode influence on Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) production”, was published in June 2024 in the journal Algal Research. 

The IICT researchers found that CGF is full of beneficial components, including peptides, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, providing superior protein quality. Metrics like Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER), Essential Amino Acid Index (EAAI), and Biological Value (BV) all point toward the exceptional quality of protein found in CGF. Microalgae used for protein production have a higher yield than crops, such as soybeans and wheat, and use less water and land.

The Netherlands’ AlgaeHUB by Lgem has been exploring the potential of the red microalgae Galdieria sulphuraria. Researchers cultivated this alga with photobioreactors that can recreate the microalgae’s optimal environment, utilizing organic waste materials as a carbon source. Due to its high protein content, antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory benefits, this alga is also valuable for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics.

Contrary to fungi and bacteria precision fermentation, or lab meat cultivation, microalgae cultivation absorbs CO2 rather than producing it, making it ideal for the environment too. A recent report by Allied Market Research, projects the global algae protein market will be worth $709 million by 2028.

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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’.