The world of algae

Power packs. All-rounders. Survival artists.

Photosynthesis in its perfection

We associate the word “algae” with a wide variety of terms, be it leaf-shaped algae that are increasingly used in Asian cuisine or algae that cloud our waters as an unwanted guest, but the multifaceted algae world offers far more interesting forms with remarkable properties and ingredients.
First and foremost, a rough distinction can be made between macroalgae and microalgae:
Are multicellular organisms
& visible to the naked eye
Are unicellular organisms
& microscopic

Algae. Wonderful all-rounders.

At ecoduna we deal with microalgae, microscopic organisms with impressive ingredients that bind enormous amounts of climate-threatening CO2 and release vital oxygen.
Due to their unique combination of valuable ingredients, microalgae not only contribute to a balanced diet, but also provide important micronutrients for the human organism.
Under optimal conditions, they grow many times more efficiently than land plants and have an extraordinary range of ingredients for a wide variety of applications:

How algae save the world?

Find out more in this ARTE documentary:

Learn more about the all-rounder algae

Algae as food
Nowadays, algae can be found in a wide variety of foods; macroalgae are mainly used in Asian cuisine, as already mentioned, and microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella are increasingly used as food supplements or as additives for a wide variety of foods because of their valuable ingredients. Algae have been used as food for a long time; for example, the Aztecs already knew about the properties of algae and used them as a plant food source.
Depending on the species, algae are characterised by a high protein and fibre content as well as a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, they can also contain large amounts of vitamins, such as vitamin E, K and various B vitamins. Algae also accumulate minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium and many more.
The human organism needs omega-3 mainly for the development of the brain, as a component of the retina and to ensure the efficiency of the cardiovascular system.
Currently, the main resource for omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil, which mostly comes from salmon, tuna and mackerel. However, the omega-3 fatty acids are largely not produced by the fish themselves, but are absorbed through food. At the beginning of this food chain are algae, which can therefore be considered the main producer of omega-3 fatty acids. Above all, the increasing overfishing of the world’s oceans and the heavy metal residues in fish oil make algae a particularly sensible and sustainable alternative.
The important forms of omega-3 fatty acids for the human organism are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In other plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as linseed oil, walnut oil or hemp oil, only the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA) is present. However, the body must first convert this into EPA and DHA. The conversion rate of ALA in the human body is very limited. How well the organism can convert ALA into EPA and DHA varies greatly and depends on many factors such as the availability of micronutrients or the general state of health. Accordingly, EPA and DHA are considered essential fatty acids.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, EPA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid for humans and is recommended for consumption in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). (European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion: Labelling reference intake values for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, 2009)1
ecoduna cultivates some very productive omega-3 algae strains that produce high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). From this we produce high-quality omega-3 oil using a gentle process. This omega-3 algae oil is currently being approved as a new foodstuff. In the future, ecoduna will be able to make a valuable contribution to the worldwide demand for vegan omega-3.
European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion: Labelling reference intake values for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. (2009). EFSA Journal, 7(7), p.1176.
The various microalgae are not only used in a wide variety of industries because of their high nutrient density, but are also popular as a natural colourant. Especially chlorophyll, phycocyanin and astaxanthin are in great demand for cosmetic products, food and medical applications:
Chlorophyll is responsible for the green colouring of plants and can also be used to dye a wide variety of products in different shades of green. Biologically, chlorophyll is divided into six different chlorophyll types: a, b, c1, c2, d and f. Each of these chlorophyll types in turn is responsible for the green colouring of plants.
Each of these chlorophyll types is in turn found in different plant organisms and is essential for the respective process of photosynthesis. The most common chlorophyll molecules found in nature are a and b. Spirulina, for example, contains chlorophyll a and chlorella, known for its high chlorophyll content, contains both a and b.
Phycocyanin is produced by cyanobacteria, which are also colloquially called blue-green algae. Spirulina is one of the most important representatives of this group. With this natural blue dye, your products can shine in a unique blue tone. You can find out more about cyanobacteria in the “Algae in detail” section below.

Astaxanthin belongs to the carotenoids and is used as a natural red colourant for a wide variety of products in cosmetics or in the food industry.

Astaxanthin is mainly extracted from the algae Haematococcus pluvialis. The interesting thing about this type of algae is that it is initially green and is then exposed to an environmental change that leads to the production of astaxanthin. This change can be observed with the naked eye. The colour of salmon, for example, can also be traced back to the ingestion of astaxanthin.

Macroalgae in particular have been used in cosmetics for a long time; they are mainly used in spa and wellness treatments for algae wraps and face masks or for a wide variety of care products. In recent years, microalgae have also increasingly become the focus of the cosmetics industry because of their valuable ingredients and the increasing demand for natural and sustainable raw materials. Especially as antioxidants, the various pigments of algae are suitable for use in cosmetics. They can help reduce cell stress and slow down skin ageing. In this context, long-chain sugars (polysaccharides) are also gaining in importance; they are formed by some algae and used as moisturisers in cosmetics.

Since algae have a high protein content, they are also interesting as a feed additive for the industry. Not only the high protein content itself is advantageous, but also the composition of the proteins. Proteins consist of different amino acids, the respective amino acid profile has a great influence on the animal.
The amino acid profile of algae is superior to that of other protein sources. Algae are valued in aquaculture and feeding of fattening animals as a feed additive mainly because of their unique amino acid composition in combination with valuable micronutrients.

Besides the use of algae in food and cosmetics, algae are also present in the energy and fuel industry. In the course of the oil price crisis of the 1970s, many research projects were launched to establish algae as an energy source. This was only partially successful, as the price of biofuel or energy from algae is still not competitive today. Research is still being conducted into more efficient and cheaper production processes in order to be competitive in the energy sector in the future. It is assumed that this form of energy will only become a real alternative in a few years.

As it is becoming more and more important how we deal with the precious commodity of water, the treatment of polluted water is becoming more and more important. Thanks to their unique abilities, algae can clean polluted water from sewage treatment plants or industrial plants. In doing so, they absorb nitrates and phosphates as well as heavy metals from their environment.
There is also evidence that algae can filter toxins and drug residues from water. Although this biomass cannot be used as food or feed, individual valuable substances could be recovered through processing or biogas could be produced.
In everyday language, but also in the scientific community, the word alga describes a very colourful group of very different organisms. These organisms colonise the most diverse habitats, they occur in ordinary salt and fresh water, but also on stones, soils and alpine snowfields.
Apart from the rough subdivision into micro and macro algae mentioned at the beginning, algae are also subdivided into a third group, the cyanobacteria (which are also called blue-green algae). Probably the most famous blue-green algae is spirulina, apart from which Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, better known as AFA algae, is also used as a food supplement. This alga is mainly harvested wild in Upper Klamath Lake in the US state of Oregon. However, due to the uncontrolled growth of this alga, the biomass obtained can be contaminated with other toxic algae. Other better-known representatives of the cyanobacteria belong to the families Synechocystis, Synechococcus, Nostoc, Anabaena, or Phormidium – but some of these species can produce toxins that can be dangerous to humans and animals.
Well-known representatives of the macroalgae are, for example, red and brown algae, which can be found in the form of tang in seas and waters. One of the best-known macroalgae is probably nori leaves, which have become an indispensable part of Asian cuisine.
Microalgae are also subdivided into many further subgroups, for example diatoms, golden algae, green algae or dinoflagellates.
There are also algae that have lost their chloroplasts and thus their green colouring. These are no longer able to carry out photosynthesis and have to cover their energy needs in other ways.
The group of net slime moulds that do not carry out photosynthesis is more reminiscent of yeasts than of algae. In addition, there are also algae that enter into symbioses with fungi and are known as “lichens” in this cohabitation.
Photosynthesis converts the energy of electromagnetic radiation (light) into chemical energy in the form of sugars. In cyanobacteria, photosynthesis takes place in the thylakoid membranes directly in the cell, in all other algae it takes place in the thylakoid membranes of the chloroplasts.
Photosynthesis is carried out by two interconnected photosystems (PS II + I) in the membranes, whereby excitation by light leads to electron transport. In the course of this transport, water is split into oxygen and hydrogen and chemical energy is generated in the form of ATP or redox potential in the form of NADPH.
Only in the next step is CO2 fixed in the form of sugars, this process is called the Calvin cycle. In order to bind six CO2 molecules, i.e. to build a complete sugar molecule, nine molecules of ATP and six molecules of NADPH are needed. These sugars are then either converted into storage substances or used for cell growth.
We produce microalgae in closed photobioreactors and are therefore not dependent on the use of fertile soils, unlike conventional agriculture.
So microalgae can be produced on land that is unsuitable for conventional agriculture. As fertile land becomes less available, there is no additional competition for it from our algae production.
Average yield per tonne / per hectare / per year
The figures for soybeans, rapeseed, wheat, peas, corn & potato correspond to the average yield in Europe in 2021.