Why algae

FIRST THERE WAS LIGHT, THEN THERE WERE ALGAE.

Billions of years ago, some of the Earth’s first living organisms learned to harness the sunlight and to convert atmospheric CO2 into oxygen and the building blocks of life: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and micronutrients.

These organisms, called microalgae, are the ancestors of today’s plants. Still today, they account for over 50 percent of the oxygen that we breathe. At Simris, we believe that these algae should also become an essential part of the sustainable diet for our future.

Algae 101

The algae we grow at Simris are microalgae. Microalgae are microscopic plants that live in the sea, and belong to the earth’s most ancient organisms. Algae naturally produce many essential nutrients, which are necessary not only for sea life, but also for human and animal health and wellbeing.

Micro vs macro

Algae are plants that live in water. They are roughly divided into macroalgae, such as seaweed and kelp, and microalgae, also known as phytoplankton.

Origin of Life

Microalgae belong to the Earth’s oldest organisms and are the basis of life as we know it today. They are the origin of plants and gave rise to the planet’s oxygen-rich air, which we animals and humans need to live.

Inventors of Photosynthesis

Billions of years ago, microalgae learned to live by photosynthesis, i.e. by harnessing sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and then releasing oxygen instead. Even today, over 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from the algae in the oceans.

Basis of the marine food chain

Algae also form the basis of the marine food chain, and produce substances that are essential to the lives of all animals in the oceans. For example, omega-3 oils in fatty fish and the red color of salmon and shellfish come from algae. It is these same substances that are so nutritious for us humans as well.

A new world waiting to be discovered

There are hundreds of thousands of different varieties of microalgae, but just a fraction have been researched and characterized. Only about a dozen species are cultivated commercially today. You might already be familiar with spirulina, chlorella or the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which comes from algae.

Small, colorful and bright

Algae live basically anywhere there is water, and can be found in oceans, lakes, and rivers. They do not grow by becoming larger, but by dividing themselves, so they grow in number instead.

In nature, you cannot detect individual microalgae with the naked eye, but if there are enough gathered in a group, the water will shimmer with their colors. The green or red spots that can be seen on rocks found on beaches are also algae.

If you examine microalgae under a microscope, you can recognize an amazing variety of species. There are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of algae in the oceans, and most are still completely unexplored.

Green, brown and red algae are the most common, and their colors vary depending on the pigments (colorants) that algae produce to harness light. There are even bioluminescent algae that are responsible for some visually stunning phenomena such as red tides and glowing waves.

SOLAR-POWERED MIRACLE FACTORIES

Land-based plants use up their energy forming roots, stems and leaves in addition to all the beneficial and healthy vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants they produce.

By contrast, the tiny single-celled algae work as small solar factories in miniature form, where all the energy they absorb from the sun is used to make these very special bioactive substances: beta-carotene, lutein, chlorophyll, astaxanthin, omega-3 EPA, omega-3 DHA and beta-glucan.

THE HISTORY OF ALGAE FARMING

People have cultivated and consumed algae since ancient times due to their superior nutritional value. In South America, Africa and Asia, people still harvest algae from natural lakes, or grow them in simple basins where the stirring is performed manually. The harvesting is done by straining algae water and letting the sun dry the algae mass on draining cloths or in sand pits.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, interest took off to grow algae on an industrial scale, initially in order to solve the imminent food supply problem as a result of the Earth’s rapidly growing population. During the oil crisis in the 1970s, research also began on using algae as a feedstock for renewable fuels, and replacing fossil crude oil with crude oil from algae.

Over the past decade, interest in algae farming has grown again, and technology is developing at a fast pace. Algae are grown on land in open ponds or in high-tech closed systems, to obtain the desired oil or other important products. Today, farmed algae are used commercially for several exclusive products such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food and health supplements.

WHY ALGAE

Since microalgae are the basis of the marine food chain, fish and other animals that live in the ocean depend on many nutrients that ultimately come from microalgae. Many of these substances are also important for us humans, and we often obtain them by, for example, eating fish, as fish accumulate these nutrients from algae in their food.

Many marine species are under the threat of extinction today due to overfishing and the destruction of marine habitats. Furthermore, fish, seafood and the products derived from them often contain high levels of mercury, PCB, PFAS and dioxins, due to contamination and plastic found in our oceans.

The way nature intended: Safe and sustainable

In the quest for natural food and health products, we think that algae are an amazing and virtually unexploited resource.

By getting our vital marine substances directly from microalgae instead of via fish or krill, we obtain better alternatives that are entirely plant-based and free from environmental toxins. In this way, the products are both safer for us and better for the ocean and all its wildlife.

With hundreds of thousands of varieties of algae to choose from, it is safe to say that the potential of algae has yet to be explored to its fullest! At Simris, we are fascinated by the diversity of the wonderful world of algae. We have made it our mission to spread the love we share for them, and to harness their healthy and powerful nutrients, so that more people can enjoy these sun-packed gifts of the sea.