January 2023

Future of Food

Carbon Optimum recently participated in a panel discussion on the Future of Food at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Discussions covered the future of farming, agriculture, and feeding the world. 

The panel was moderated by Morgan Oliveira, the Principal of Grounded, a consultancy that helps startups, individuals, and funds in the food, agriculture, and climate tech sectors.

Panel participants included: 

Ethan Soloviev, a regenerative agriculture expert, Chief Innovation Officer at HowGood, and the founder of the Regenerative Enterprise Institute.

Milena Nikolova, Partner at Aera VC, a global venture capital firm investing in early startups that are moving the world to a more sustainable future.

Javad Mushtaq, Deputy CEO / Managing Director at EAT, the leading global organization working on food systems transformation working to ensure that 10 billion people have healthy, sustainable and equitable food by 2050.

Mariana Vasconcelos, Founder of Agrosmart, helping food systems and nature to thrive by leveraging climate solutions to manage and mitigate financial risks.

Yao Huang, Board Director of Carbon Optimum.


Feeding the world with algae

As the world’s population grows past 8 billion, malnutrition and starvation are becoming increasingly dire problems. According to the World Food Programme, over 345 million people are expected to be food insecure in 2023, which is over double the number in 2020. One of the causes of food insecurity is climate change, due to increased extreme weather like droughts and floods making it more difficult to grow food.

Carbon Optimum presents a solution with algae. Algae draws carbon dioxide out of the air, reducing climate change, and can then be turned into a number of useful products from food to fuel.

Algae and seaweed are already eaten by people around the world, and are especially popular in Asia. The nutritional density of algaes has also turned some of them, like Spirulina, into health food products. “Twenty-five grams of algae can supply all the nutrients needed for a body,” says Dr. Yao Huang. This includes a high percentage of protein along with essential amino acids, omega fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Not only is algae good for you, it is fast growing, space efficient, and can be grown in areas that other crops can’t. Meat and dairy production needs over 80% of the world’s farmland, and is contributing to the climate and ecological crises. Soy is one of the main plant-based alternatives to meat, but even that can take up a lot of land and water. Algae is a promising alternative protein source. It contains about the same amount of protein per weight as soy, and provides more nutrients. Algae is also far more efficient at growing that same amount of protein. It grows about 10 times faster than traditional crops and produces about 6-12x more protein per hectare than soy. With algae’s impressive rate of growth and nutrient density, it could provide all of the world’s protein needs by 2050.

Carbon Optimum is developing algae as a great solution to feed the malnourished and starving people of the world. The company is working with vendors who have contracts to supply these food insecure populations in Africa. At full capacity, the Kansas facility will be able to supply enough algae to feed 4 billion people yearly. 


Algae reduces methane from cows

Cows don’t only take up a lot of land, they also burp and fart a lot of methane. Methane accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions, but traps 25 times more heat than CO2. Luckily, methane only stays in the atmosphere for 12 years. The agricultural sector is the largest producer of methane in the US, with much of it coming from the normal digestive processes of livestock like cows, pigs, and sheep. In fact, about 24% of all global methane emissions come from these animals.

We won’t be able to eliminate livestock from our lives any time soon, but we can help them produce less methane. Studies have shown that adding a little bit of algae to cattle feed can reduce their methane emissions as much as 82%. Algae also provides beneficial lipids and proteins, which could improve the health of the animals.

Carbon Optimum is producing algae for animal feed in proprietary photobioreactors. If all the cows eat this feed and stop producing methane right now, the methane in our atmosphere will be greatly reduced in about a decade and the planet can start recovering from climate change with immediate heat reductions.