BBC: The green sludge that could transform our diets

12 April 2020
by Abigail Beall

The BBC wrote an article, with an interview with Asaf Tzachor, based on his research including his paper The Future of Feed: Integrating Technologies to Decouple Feed Production from Environmental Impacts.

Microalgae is rich in protein, amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins. Should we all be eating it?

“Our global food system fails on its most profound premise to provide humanity with healthy and food-secure lives,” says Asaf Tzachor, who leads research on global food security and emerging technologies at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.

To fight global hunger and increase food security, the demand for crops like soybean – widely used as animal feed – is expected to increase 80% by 2050. But producing soy requires large amounts of water and is driving deforestation in South America, leading to more environmental damage. “Alternative food sources and alternative food systems are, therefore, essential to develop and deploy, at scale, if global food security is ever to be realised,” says Tzachor.

Last year, Tzachor visited a small-scale microalgae farm in Iceland run by Israel-based company Algaennovation. The farm uses geothermal electricity to power LEDs that light transparent tubes called photobioreactors.

Contemporary food systems exhaust the biosphere by eroding soils and contaminating groundwater, leading to the logging of forests and the fragmentation of habitats, says Tzachor while being sensitive to a range of risks like bad weather, pests and pathogens.

“On all of these accounts, microalgae are not a good source of food for the future,” says Tzachor. “Rather, if cultivated properly, they are an ideal source.”

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