TerraVia (formerly Solazyme) and agribusiness giant Bunge Limited have announced the launch of native, whole algae DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as a sustainable specialty feed ingredient for the aquaculture market, a roughly $3 billion market for omega-3 ingredients. DHA is a long chain omega-3 fatty acid that is a critical element for humans and animals, including fish, for healthy growth and development.
AlgaPrime™ DHA will be produced at the companies' SB Renewable Oils joint venture facility in Brazil, where full product scale-up was reached in late 2015. The joint venture partners will act as exclusive distributors for AlgaPrime™ DHA. Product sampling to global aquaculture feed producers has taken place over the last several months.
TerraVia and Bunge also announced that they have reached a definitive commercial supply agreement with one of the world's largest aquaculture feed suppliers, though terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Under the supply agreement, AlgaPrime™ DHA is slated to begin incorporation into fish feed for salmonids in the July-August 2016 timeframe.
"AlgaPrime™ DHA is our first major new product from the expanded joint venture with Bunge and could be a real game changer in keeping our oceans healthy by offering a non-marine-based, sustainable source of omega-3s to help address the growing ‘fish in, fish out' problem today. It provides a far more sustainable non-fish-based source of DHA to help maintain healthy oceans while improving the nutritional value of seafood for our families," said TerraVia CEO Jonathan Wolfson.
Solazyme/TerraVia first made a name for itself in the early 2010s by highlighting the viability of algae as a sustainable feedstock for biofuel. Since then, through partnerships with companies including AkzoNobel and Unilever, the company has led the growth of algal oil as a sustainable alternative to palm oil and petroleum-based oils, for everything from personal care and laundry soaps, to paints and coatings to surfboard planks. Its latest partnership could be just as much a win for Bunge, which has received flack from investors for failing to implement its 2014 commitment to ensure the palm oil that it sources will be deforestation- and peat-free.
Long chain omega-3s such as DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are critical inputs used extensively in aquaculture feed, with fish oil and meal as their main sources. Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food production systems in the world, a market that is estimated to reach $200 billion annually by 2020. This growth is helping to drive increasing demand for long chain omega-3s, particularly as global supplies of the traditional sources, fish oil and meal, are under serious and increasing pressure from overfishing, quotas and rising demand for human and animal nutrition.
AlgaPrime™ DHA provides a sustainable and efficient source of DHA that can be produced at high volumes to address increasing global demand without endangering fish stocks. About 1 million tons of omega-3 rich fish oil is produced annually for aquaculture, animal feed and human nutrition. To meet this need, today large quantities of wild fish are caught and processed to extract the fish oil. The demand for omega-3s is growing, but the availability of omega-3s from wild-caught ocean fish is limited in nature. Wild fish and their prey naturally consume microalgae as their key and original source of DHA, making AlgaPrime™ DHA an excellent replacement for fish oil or meal.
"Aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important contributor to the global food system. To meet the continuing growth in demand for fish oil and fish meal, sustainable alternatives are needed," said Piers Hart, Aquaculture Policy Officer at WWF UK. "We are eager to see sustainable sources of omega-3 rich oils come to market at scale and reduce pressure on scarce marine resources."
Algae continues to be explored as a viable alternative to petroleum-based feedstocks for a variety of applications: A Japanese design collective is exploring the potential uses of agar (an extract of red algae) as an alternative to synthetic plastics of all kinds.