Australian research develops new fish-free Omega-3 from microalgae: new food, anti-pollutant and biofuel side benefits

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd June 2015
Fish, Omega 3, Oil, Healthy Oil, Healthy, Seafood, Sustainability
Fish, Omega 3, Oil, Healthy Oil, Healthy, Seafood, Sustainability

Tasmanian researchers at the CSIRO’s National Algae Culture Collection facility in Hobart  believe they are getting close to developing a Omega 3 supplement that does not come from fish.

Dr Susan Blackburn of  the National Algae Culture Collection told ABC News that growing concerns about the sustainability of fish stocks and high levels of pollutants in some Omega-3 supplements, scientists were turning their attention to microalgae. The omega-3 is processed from natural Omega-producing strains of microalgae.

More than $200 million worth of omega-3 supplements are sold in Australia annually, and that is growing by around 10 per cent per annum.

Dr Blackburn explained to ABC News that the scientists can extract the same Omega 3  by processing it straight from the microalgae  rather than sourcing it as an oil extracted from fish consuming the microalgae.

According to the CSIRO’s lead scientist in this project at the Dr Kim Lee Chang at the National Algae Culture Collection,  most microalgae need sunlight to grow, and he had been feeding one type crude glycerol, which was industrial waste from a biodiesel plant to feed the microalgae.

He told the ABC News, “It’s just like making beer, beer fermentation. So what we do is we put the carbon source in, in this case crude glycerol, it’s the sugar.”

Dr Chang said microalgae’s ability to double their biomass daily gave it the potential as a renewable resource for both food and fuel.

“One would be the biofuels and the other would be the omega-3 oils,” he said to ABC News.

It could however be another five to ten years before fish-free Omega 3 supplements are ready to hit Australian shelves. Despite the focus on fish, Omega 3 is also available naturally through plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseed.

Australian Food News has previously reported extensively on other ongoing research into numerous health benefits of Omega 3 oils.