Why algae failed to make an impact

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Why algae failed to make an impact

Despite initial hopes, algae have fallen into the vortex of the feed additives industry

A few years ago, I was introduced into the potential of algae. They appeared to be a source of energy and protein for farm animals that could be explored at low cost, providing a viable alternative to areas that cannot produce cereals and protein crops at an advantageous cost.

I do not know what happened, but algae seem to have jumped wagon. We see them competing with other products that we call additives, with similar claims on immunity, health, bacterial control, mycotoxin binding and so on. There is no denial that such functions can be possible. After all, sea life remains largely a mystery to us. But why the switch to additives business?

One might argue it is because of the higher margins enjoyed by the additives industry. This is a misguided statement, in my opinion, because one tends to ignore the huge marketing expenses incurred compared with the much larger global business of wheat or corn exporting, for example. We see no marketing from these industries, yet their business is enormous.

Another explanation offered to me by someone in the know is that “perhaps” funding has switched minds and no longer wants a competition to feed ingredients, but something that can be produced locally to compete with additives coming from far away. It is not difficult to put two and two together to understanding the thinking behind such a change of heart. Is it true? Perhaps. But it makes sense.

At the end of the day, we must understand that business is business and if one venture is not supported by the whole industry and political framework, then it is better to find an alternative instead of repeatedly hitting your head against the wall.

Algae are a great idea, supported by some great original research work that remains unexplored. Perhaps it will be reinstated in the future but, for now, algae – instead of becoming the talk of the day (like insects, for example) – have become yet another additive. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but not as earth shattering as it promised to be, at least in my opinion.