Today’s Solutions: January 19, 2022

Amanda Stiles and Beth Zotter, founders of the startup Trophic, are on a mission to develop the most sustainable supply chain for alternative protein in the world! Their key ingredient? Seaweed.

Seaweed has been a staple in Asian diets for centuries because of its high quantities of protein and carbohydrates, but for Westerners, the idea of a pile of seaweed on our plates may not always be the most appetizing. Stiles, a Ph.D. plant biochemist, and Zotter, a technology entrepreneur with a background in renewable energy, aim to change this perspective and establish seaweed as the alternative-protein source, eclipsing other popular plant-based proteins such as soy. 

When most people conjure up an image of seaweed, they probably imagine something green, slimy, and stringy. However, Stiles and Zotter focus on Rhodophyta, or red seaweeds, because of their vivid color and high protein content. They also hone in on red seaweed as an ingredient for its ability to enhance faux meat so that it looks, cooks, and tastes more authentically meaty, rather than considering its potential as food on its own.

The research that Stiles and Zotter do for Trophic looks at red seaweed on a molecular level. Seaweed is mostly composed of protein and hydrocolloids, which are carbohydrates. They separate the hydrocolloids from the protein through a process called fractionation, so that they have more flexibility to play with the ingredients. Hydrocolloids have a particular texture that enables them to bind well, and better replicate the three-dimensional structure needed to simulate muscles in meat.

Seaweed will also maintain moisture and fat when cooked, which is a problem for other plant-based food products that lose much of their oil and moisture once cooked.

In addition to its meat-like and meat-enhancing properties, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that red seaweed could be the solution to many of the environmental issues we face today. In fact, the Department of Energy is funding Stiles and Zotter’s research because it is interested in seaweed as a renewable fuel! Seaweed could very well become the most sustainable source of protein on Earth by implementing the same technologies needed to extract renewable energy from this alternative, plant-based source.

Seaweed grows easily in harsh and salty climes and doesn’t require fresh water or fertilizers. And because it grows so quickly, seaweed farms will absorb carbon much faster than the vegetation we have on land. Farming seaweed in the ocean is like planting an underwater forest. If seaweed is farmed at a large scale, then sunk into deep ocean trenches, it has the potential to take carbon out of the atmosphere efficiently and permanently.

In addition to this, Zotter says that a seaweed farm that covers an area equal to the size of Massachusetts would generate enough protein to replace all the beef consumed around the world. And to make things better, there is a type of red algae called Dulse that even tastes like bacon when cooked!

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

The Philippines bans child marriage to help stop child abuse

According to a report issued last year by the United Nations Children’s Fund, more than half a billion girls and women across the globe were married as children, meaning under the age of majority (18). ... Read More

This circular leather alternative is made from algae and peels

As people are increasingly becoming reluctant to use clothes and fashion accessories made out of animal-sourced leather, more and more designers are turning their eyes towards more sustainable and ethical alternatives. One of the latest ... Read More

Rapidly retrofitting old buildings is key for climate goals – Here̵...

Buildings account for about 40 percent of annual global carbon emissions. In order to meet our climate goals, every building on the planet will have to be net-zero by 2050. But since most of the ... Read More

IKEA buys land ravaged by hurricane to transform into forests

The Optimist Daily has shared several stories about the popular Swedish furniture company IKEA and its environmentally friendly initiatives such as its buyback and resell program, its pledge to stop using plastic packaging, its zero-waste ... Read More

This market is tossing “use-by” dates to help curb food waste

The British supermarket Morrisons has decided to remove “use-by” dates on milk packaging by the end of the month in an effort to save millions of pints of milk from being needlessly thrown away each ... Read More

The population of Ugandan tree-climbing lions is growing

One of the only populations of Ishasha tree-climbing lions in the world resides in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Unfortunately, the population faces numerous threats such as loss of habitat, climate change, and illegal ... Read More