Posted on: 2010-05-08

Why microalgae for feeds


The world population growth - World Statistics, and increasing average standard of living, implies an increasing demand on feeds (Godfray et al, 2010) - total world feed output is approximately 614 million tonnes - IFIF Statistics. Animal feed consumption already exceeds direct human food consumption by almost four, and this ratio can only rise as the demand for more animal protein increases. The ability to produce increasing amounts of feeds is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind, perhaps even greater than the environmental, energy, global warming and resource crisis. An increase in world population plays an important role on increasing feed demand. For instance, there are currently 6.5 billion people in the world. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 2 billion more mouths to feed. This world population growth is driving meat consumption, and more meat means more grain, so feed demand and animal feed supplements are rising!

Microalgae can play an important role in the future. They are one of the potential sources of foods and feeds provided by Nature with the potential to feed an ever growing and affluent population. Microalgae are the photosynthetic organisms in the first levels of the aquatic food-chains, on which an ever growing part of our food will have to come from. Our challenge is to domesticate these plants, as we have done with higher plants, to allow us to manage their large scale production for a wide range of applications, including feeds.

This Brief aims to (1) bring together the most relevant information available on microalgae feed production - and (2) promote the knowledge management to help accelerate the development of algae feeds. We hope that is Brief will contribute for the emergence and expansion of projects and ventures in this sector.

The survival, growth, development, productivity and fertility of animals are a reflection of their health. Feed quality is the most important exogenous factor influencing animal health, especially in connection with intensive breeding conditions and the recent trend to avoid "chemicals" like antibiotics (Pulz and Gross, 2004).

Microalgae posses many unique and interesting biochemical properties that are playing an increasingly important role in many aspects of daily lives from nutrition through to energy production (Sweetman, 2009). Beside the nutritional improvement that microalgae incorporation in feeds versus higher plants may bring to animals health, they are the only biomass material that allows production with daily harvest all year round. This could bring more security of supply on raw materials to the feed market. They also possess advantages in terms of productivity, are very similar regarding photosynthetic efficiency and may be cultivated in non-arable areas.

The large number of nutritional and toxicological evaluations that were conducted in the past, demonstrates the suitability of algal biomass as a valuable feed supplement. It is estimated that about 30 % of the world algal production is sold for animal feed application (Becker, 2004).

Aquaculture already successfully uses many species as an essential component of the live food chain in the production of a number of high valued species. The potential that microalgae has, to act as a partial replacement of fish oils, offers the opportunity for the continues expansion of global aquaculture production while publicised nutritional benefits that aquaculture products offer to human nutrition and health (Sweetman, 2009).


Becker EW. 2004. Microalgae in human and animal nutrition. In: Richmond A., editor. Handbook of Microalgae Culture. Biotechnology and Applied Phycology. Oxford: Blackwell Science. 

Pulz O, Gross W. 2004. Valuable products from biotechnology of microalgae. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Vol 65, 5, 635-648. Article

Sweetman E. 2009. Microalgae: its applications and potential. International Aqua Feed. Perendale Publishers Ltd. UK. Article