According to some estimates, food production will need to increase by 50% by 2050 in order to feed a projected global population of 10 billion people. How can this be achieved?
One solution, according to researchers at Cornell University, could be to grow nutritious and protein-dense microalgae in seawater-fed onshore aquaculture systems.
According to the research, which was recently published in the journal Oceanography, growing algae onshore could close a projected gap in society’s future nutritional demands while also improving environmental sustainability.
Climate change, environmental degradation, limited arable land, and lack of freshwater will all constrain the amount of food that can be grown in the coming decades. Wild fish stocks are already heavily exploited, and there are limits to how much finfish, shellfish, and seaweed aquaculture can be produced in the coastal ocean.
As a result, the researchers argue for expanding algae production in onshore aquaculture facilities. The research team’s models found that the best locations for onshore algae farming facilities are along the coasts of the Global South, including desert environments.
Algae can grow as much as ten times faster than traditional crops. Algae can also be produced in a manner that is more efficient than agriculture in its use of nutrients. In addition to its high protein content, algae also provides nutrients lacking in vegetarian diets, such as essential amino acids, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Algae could become the breadbasket of the Global South.
Photo, posted June 17, 2011, courtesy of NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory via Flickr.