Putting innovative Australian marine bioproducts into tasty vegan food ideas is the goal of a new project at the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development, Flinders University.
The project is part of a growing global trend to fathom the sea world for vegan foods. Australia’s vast shoreline and pristine waters hold a myriad of untapped, renewable bioresources and opportunities to enter the international marine bioproducts market estimated to be worth more than $175 billion a year.
“In South Australia, we’ve worked with the Australian Kelp Products for over a decade, developing new products and processes to put beach-cast seaweeds into value-added commodities,” says CMBD director Professor Wei Zhang, director, who is also Leader and Research Director of the Marine Bioproducts CRC (MB-CRC) Bid.
Now the innovative partnership is eyeing the booming vegan market for organic, eco-friendly nutritional goods to produce new seaweed-derived ingredients and functional food products.
While countries such as Japan, China and South Korea dominate the market for edible whole seaweeds, Western consumers are becoming increasingly fond of seaweed food products.
“Southern Australian waters host one of the highest diversities of macroalgae (seaweeds) in the world,” Professor Zhang says, pointing to abundant species such as brown algae in the genera Ecklonia, Durvillaea, Macrocystis and Sargassum, and green algae including Ulva spp. (sea lettuce), Monostroma spp. and Caulerpa spp. (seagrapes), used to enrich soups, salads and other culinary treats around the world.
With macroalgal preparations and extracts now a common sight in health-food stores and pharmacies, Professor Zhang says their bioactive compounds can have strong antioxidant effects and contain essential vitamins and minerals such as iodine, vitamin K, B vitamins, iron, and zinc which can promote gut, skin and brain health.
The new Flinders University Innovation Partnership Seed grant-funded project with Australian Kelp Products Pty Ltd (AKP) seeks to adapt the active compounds of local seaweeds into booming industry pathway of healthy function foods for vegan and organic food consumers.
The global vegan market has been forecast to rise from $US12.69 billion in 2018 to $US22 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.6% built on rising awareness of the benefits of following a vegan diet.
Founded at Beachport on South Australia’s Limestone Coast region in 1994, AKP holds the only seaweed sustainable development licence in mainland Australia. The company produces organic fertiliser and cattle feed via a system able to expand into higher value materials for foodstuffs, industrial and medical products.
The company’s Chief Executive Mr Leo Lin says the project aims to provide AKP with the scientific expertise needed to attract investors and other partners, to produce the eco- and vegan-friendly seaweed functional foods and ingredients for both domestic and global markets.
The Marine Bioproducts CRC Bid aims to develop the third generation of Australian high-value marine bioindustry, building on the first generation of fisheries and the second generation of aquaculture. Australia’s emerging marine bioproducts sector has the potential to become a globally competitive industry, researchers say.
The long-term partnership between Flinders University researchers and the macroalgal manufacturing industry also aims to support the development of new 3D-printable alginate-based bioinks from local seaweeds such as Ecklonia radiata (E. radiata) and Durvillaea potatorum (D. potatorum) to make medical quality 3D-printing biomaterials – also in rising demand around the world.