Seakura sees seaweed as the food of the future

Prof. Yonathan Zohar Photo: Eli Yitzhar

The Israeli company wants to grow algae on land, instead of in the sea.

According to Professor Yonathan Zohar's vision of land-based fish agriculture, fish will eat mainly algae in the future, which can also be grown in land agriculture, as Israeli company Seakura, owned by Yosi Karta, is doing.

Professor Zohar is head of the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Maryland, head of the Marine and Environmental Technology Institute (the marine technologies commercialization company of the university and several of its partners), and chief scientist of seaweed company Seakura. 

"Algae have always been an important source of protein for man," Karta says. "Today, the prevailing practice is to grow them in coastal regions in countries like China, Africa, and Indonesia, and 95% of the commercial algae are large algae. In order to grow them, they are put onto ropes in the sea, like coastal pools, and they are grown from small algae into big algae. The industry is already a $7 billion industry or more. Global algae consumption is growing, and the market is projected to reach $18 billion in 2021. Algae can be used both as a direct food for humans and as vegan gelatin for food and industry, for example as a basis for petri dishes used to culture cells, such as bacteria and small mosses."

According to Karta, in marine agriculture, algae absorb infections and diseases from the sea, production is seasonal, and algae farmers, mostly women, work in difficult conditions. "The women are at risk of drowning and treading on poisonous animals," he says. Seakure is therefore moving algae growing to land-based facilities that undergo purification. Using this method, infections are prevented, the crop is no longer seasonal, and work conditions are reasonable.

Zohar adds, "Growing under these conditions makes it possible to grow algae with nutritional value several times better than in nature, especially protein, but also calcium and iodine."

"Globes": Will this industry be left in the farmers' hands with better work conditions, or will corporations take it over?

Karta: "Part of my vision is to grow algae in the same places where they are grown today. What guides me is the Midrash (Jewish religious text) that says, "When God created the first man He took him and showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him 'See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world - for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it'." That is the motto of all my companies. All the plants on earth developed from algae, so it's reasonable that everything is contained in them."

Karta has invested NIS 55 million of his family's money in Seakura to date. "We have finished the experimental stage on our farm and the patent registration processes. Our job is not to create the algae; it is to create the machine through which the alga can be created in its natural place."

Zohar believes that algae are the food of the future, because as soon as you add them to food, they change the food's glycemic values and taste. "You give the cook another color for the plate," he says.

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on July 2, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

Prof. Yonathan Zohar Photo: Eli Yitzhar
Prof. Yonathan Zohar Photo: Eli Yitzhar
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