Lipids and omega-3s serve as the foundation for many foods and fuel, but the problem is that they are typically produced in ways that are damaging to the planet.
For instance, omega-3 fatty acids are usually sourced from farmed fish, which are commonly fed smaller, wild-caught fish. This is leading to the depletion of fish stocks. Meanwhile, lipids—or fats—could be used to replace vegetable oils such as palm oil, a much-talked-about substance that is responsible for heavy deforestation. The only problem is that lipids today are often made from animal fats, which isn’t so sustainable either.
Enter LanzaTech, a biotech company that has successfully figured out how to turn CO2 emissions into lipids and omega-3 fatty acids. To do this, the company feeds waste carbon and hydrogen directly to organisms that digest them and turn them into acetate. That acetate can then be fed to a type of algae that transforms it into lipids and omega-3s.
Although this process is much greener than the land and water usage associated with conventional ways of producing lipids and omega-3s, it still requires a lot of energy. That’s because the digestion process takes place inside a bioreactor that relies on a source of energy.
LanzaTech, however, believes scaling its new technology and using renewable energy will allow the company to produce these ingredients without producing emissions. If they succeed, we could finally have a substitute for eco-unfriendly palm oil and omega-3s sourced from farmed fish.