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Plant-based prawns to protect the marine environment

Date: 8.7.2022 

Around the world, people are consuming more and more fish and seafood, such as mussels and prawns. This includes Switzerland, where consumption has risen by 60 percent over the past quarter of a century to reach 75,000 metric tons a year.

Kredit: Stefan Weiss.Of this volume, 97 percent is imported, with predictable consequences for the environment: overfishing, along with permanently depleted stocks, and fish and prawn farms using fishmeal as feed, thereby exacerbating the problem of overfishing while also destroying ecosystems. Realizing that urgent action is required, ETH Zurich researchers Severin Eder and Lukas Böcker have turned their efforts towards developing seafood alternatives made from microalgae.

Rich in protein, unsaturated fats and micronutrients, microalgae have long been recognized as a superfood. In certain species of algae, proteins make up as much as 70 percent of dry matter. What's more, they supply virtually all the amino acids essential for human health, and they form the basis of many marine food chains. This is one of the key reasons why fish and seafood are prized as healthy foodstuffs – even though they also accumulate heavy metals and microplastics.

Despite their many nutritional benefits, microalgae are still not widely used in the food industry. This is because the requisite processing technology is very much in its infancy; white, non-pigmented microalgae have only recently become available in greater quantities.

Böcker and Eder are currently developing a platform for producing seafood that is based on microalgae plus the judicious admixture of other vegetable protein sources such as soya and peas. This is intended to replicate authentic seafood not only in taste but also nutritional qualities.





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