Sea Grains and Other Ways to Grow Materials in the Ocean

Algae has been making a comeback in recent years, with a few key successes — looking at you shoe biopolymers algae companies — but let’s not forget the failures as to not repeat them.

People imagine huge farms of algae growing biofuel and materials. A few companies are doing it and getting traction in the market. Bloom Materials works with Reef, so they’re the ones to watch as the leaders. A few others have popped up, and scrutinize them carefully as you proceed to engage.

A decade ago, Solazyme was a darling of the industry, but guess what? They could build no significant demand for their “tailored bio-oils” and cost structure was no doubt a contributor; the algae grew in dark, sugar-fed fermentations.

Sea grains caught my imagination a few months back when I encountered the story of Ángel León, who had discovered a grain found in a seagrass called eelgrass. Grains as bunches of small verdant granules are found at the base of the seagrass, Zostera marina.

I am looking into where people have sustainable harvesting of algae or seagrains with or without permits. I bring up permits because we want this to scale, if it has promise, and if it is to scale, it needs to not be ruined for everybody by one effort that goes awry. When there are permits involved, it may be a process that other areas can implement with the support of the powers that be. I mean, I hope for the best but generally prepare for the worst.






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