Microalgae produce biomass with high quality ingredients from carbon dioxide and inorganic substances. These ingredients can be made usable for human nutrition by suitable production, harvesting, and biorefinery procedures. Microalgae can be cultivated in technical systems on marginal land and do not need to compete for land used for traditional food production. They produce up to five times the yields of traditional crops and considerably higher contents of oils and proteins than, for example, rapeseed or soy. They have a very high nutritional value, among others due to their content of omega-3-fatty acids and proteins. Thus, they provide a good starting point to contribute to responsible and sustainable development of nutrition. So far, their potential has hardly been realized. The most commercially important microalgae are Chlorella and Spirulina as food supplements, Dunaliella salina as a source of beta-carotene, and Haematococcus pluvialis for the production of the food colorant astaxanthin. The algae are mostly used without processing or only for special ingredients that are extracted. Other potential uses of microalgae, such as the extraction of proteins to substitute animal protein or soy protein, have not been considered yet.
The aim of this project is to analyze the use of microalgae for the production of food by using the example of the production of algal protein, and to develop algae scenarios for nutrition. To this end, cost estimates, life cycle assessments (LCAs) and a stakeholder workshop will be performed. The focus of the LCAs is on the mass and energy balances and the impact on climate change and resource use. These will be shown for selected algae process chains. Furthermore, narrative scenarios will be developed that describe the drivers and development corridors for the use of microalgae. Finally, a transdisciplinary workshop with experts and stakeholders will be held to identify opportunities and challenges of microalgae-based food and to discuss the resulting barriers and necessary changes.