Centuries ago, people at waterfronts discovered various applications of Algae. With the passage of time, humans started using algae as agar, alginates, energy source, fertilizer, nutrition, pollution control, bioremediation, pigments, and stabilizing substances. In 2015, these applications formed a global algae market worth US$608.0 mn. Also, Transparency Market Research states that the global algae market is expected to rise at a CAGR of 7.39% for the period of 2016-2024 to reach US$1.1 bn by 2024.
The major share of the global algae market is shared by the key players – Kent BioEnergy Corporation, Algae Tec, Phycal LLC, LiveFuels, Inc., Pond Biofuels Incorporated, Sapphire Energy, Inc., Algae Systems LLC, Dao Energy, LLC, DSM Nutritional Products, Solazyme, Inc., Diversified Energy Corporation, Kai BioEnergy Corp., Algenol, and Algix.
Algae is produced through various ways including open ponds cultivation, closed photo bioreactor cultivation, and raceway ponds cultivation. Many species of algae are produced through these processes and they find their application in aviation sector, marine sector, DHA production (protein sales), road transport, and DHA production (pharmaceutical applications).
What are the emerging applications of algae that promise a bright future for algae market?
Even though the traditional applications of algae, which are mentioned above, form a significant part of the market, there are some new emerging applications that can take the market to the pinnacle at a quick rate. Among those applications the foremost are – algae as biofuel and algae for bioplastic.
Algae as biofuel:
Even though algae fuel releases CO2 when burnt—just like fossil fuels—algae fuel is considered as eco-friendly, unlike fossil fuels. This is because algae fuel releases only the amount of CO2 that was been consumed from environment through the process of photosynthesis.
Today most biofuels are produced from corn and soya; using algae instead would be very rewarding as it grows faster than corn and soya, and the cultivation is much cheaper too. The only factor limiting algae from being used for production of biofuels is their low capacity of producing oils and fat. Researchers all around the world have been working to genetically engineer algae to make it produce more oils and fat.
Researchers from the J Craig Venter Institute, MD, US, who were working on the same for eight years, announced in early July 2017, that they have produced a species of algae that produces 40% fat. Comparatively, other species produce only 10% fat. This is another step towards making a new biofuel available for world and making the world fossil-fuel-free.
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Algae for bioplastic:
The other application that could change the face of the algae market is using algae for producing bioplastic. Currently produced bioplastic from algae are too far from practical use due to inferior physical properties. Many scientists and research firms are busy with creating a species of algae that will produce the right amount of hydrocarbons and sugars that will make it appropriate for the production of bioplastics as strong as traditional plastics.
What regions of the world are the leading cultivators of algae?
The global algae market is dominated by North America. Countries such as Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., have more than 135 companies cultivating algae, which has helped the North America lead the global algae market. The North America algae market is prominently dominated by the U.S., which accounts for more than 85% of algae production in North America. The U.S. is likely to continue to lead the North America algae market till the year of 2024. Also, Asian countries are focusing more on the production of algae fuel to countervail the CO2 emissions due to usage of fossil fuels.