Algae, tomorow’s proteins ?

hydrolyse enzymatique Upcyclink

Will algae be an essential resource in tomorrow’s food production to feed 10 billion human beings ?

In the face of limited arable land, the ocean, which accounts for 70% of our planet’s surface, is emerging as an essential environment.

Focus on this “superfood” destined to revolutionize our plates.



Algae as food worldwide


Algae have long been harvested by man. Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, they are consumed all over the world: in Japan, of course, where Nori leaves are grown and used for traditional maki, in Scotland and Ireland, where white seaweed is used in desserts and some beers, and in China and Korea, where it is appreciated for its flavor and virtues.


Algae are not a traditional food in Europe and are not widely consumed. To date, the algae species authorized for human consumption in France and Europe are restricted to a list of 29 macroalgae and 5 microalgae (European regulation 2015/2283). Algae must also comply with recommendations (regulations or notices) regarding heavy metal and iodine concentrations.


Macroalgae et Microalgae

Macroalgae are macroscopic multicellular organisms that can measure up to several dozen meters and are classified into three main groups: green algae such as sea lettuce, red algae such as Nori, the world’s most widely consumed seaweed, and brown algae such as wakame, used in salads, and one of the most commercialized algae, kombu, used in soups.



Upcyclink enzymatic hydrolysis


The 3 main groups of algae : green algae, red algae, brown algae



Microalgae, or microscopic algae, make up phytoplankton and form the basis of the marine food chain. They are all abundant in nature, and can be found in both fresh and salt water. Their size is in the micron range.



A superfood

Each species of algae (over 72,000) has its own particular nutritional characteristics. Some algae are very rich in protein. This protein richness potentially also makes bioactive peptides available that are beneficial to animal and human health, due to their antimicrobial activity, for example. Other algae abound in trace elements such as zinc and selenium, and essential vitamins such as vitamin B12. All are particularly rich in minerals and other rare elements such as iodine, as well as fibers known as polysaccharides.

These molecules are the gelling agents in macroalgae, and form the basis of many texturizing ingredients used in the food industry (yoghurts, custards, ice creams, etc.). These fibers are also an interesting source of prebiotic compounds, which promote a healthy balance in the intestinal microbiota.

Low in lipids, algae generally contain mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 and -6.



Food supplements

These properties explain why algae has been on our plates for decades in the form of food supplements (nutraceuticals).

Microalgae supplements include spirulina, renowned for its antioxidant and blood sugar regulating properties, and chorella, with its purifying and toning properties.

However, only a dozen or so microalgae are currently exploited, mainly due to extraction difficulties.



expertise seaweed biorefinery


Spirulina in various forms



As far as macroalgae are concerned, kombu and black seaweed are used in food supplements for their antioxidant, purifying and weight-loss properties.

Biotechnology provides access to macroalgae molecules that are difficult to extract or produce. Enzymes, small molecular scissors that can be produced through biotechnology, can be used to specifically cut out certain components of the algae wall.  Using enzymatic hydrolysis processes that are neutral and close to nature, and the biorefinery principle, we can target and extract in cascade each compound of interest for standardized production.

Upcyclink has extensive expertise in these processes and regularly contributes to development projects.


Algae, the new food trend

The rise of new consumer trends (vegan, health) is creating a growing attraction for seaweed, which is increasingly found on our plates in many forms: drinks, sauces, salads, chips, etc.

The adaptation to Western flavors has put on the market a number of presentations among which, short seaweed broth, seaweed mustard, vinegar seaweed puree, salads or breads based on seaweed.

Recently, seaweed has appeared in the beverage industry, in the form of teas, smoothies and even beers.

In the market for meat substitutes, they provide the desired nutritional proteins and are about to become a commonplace ingredient in bacon and hamburgers. The pigments of the red algae also reproduce the color of the beef.

Given this booming market, what about production ?


Algae production


One of the characteristics of microalgae is their exponential development capacity. A micro algae doubles its mass every day: by capturing the photons of light and fixing CO2, it magnifies the day to divide into two cells at night. But the difficulties related to the harvesting of microalgae and the extraction of lipids considerably hinder the profitability of this sector. This is why, out of thousands of existing species, only a dozen microalgae are today exploited in an industrial way in the world. Microalgae production is still in its infancy and is the subject of much research.


Microalgae in tubes

upcyclink coproduits expertise


Global macroalgae production amounted to more than 35 million tonnes in 2019; 96% from algae cultivation in East and Southeast Asia, and the rest of South America, Africa, Europe and Oceania. China is the first seaweed country in the world. France is the 10th country and the second European country after Norway. Most of its algal biomass comes from wild resources.


upcyclink algues expertise




Algoculture (growing algae on previously seeded supports) has grown strongly in recent years and now represents more than a quarter of the tonnage produced by aquaculture, the majority of which is still in Asia.




Sources :


Upcyclink supports you

View more projects

In situ recovery of by-products from salmon processing

Relocation of raw material recovery

Development of new recovery processes – fish roes