A leading carbon recycling company has developed a way to turn CO2 emissions into essential omega-3 fatty acids - offering a sustainable alternative to feeding the world's demand for fish oil.
Now based in Chicago, New Zealand-founded company LanzaTech has been heralded for recycling the carbon-rich waste from industrial operations, such as steel works, into ethanol and other green chemicals. The company has raised US$165million from international investors since it was founded in 2005.
LanzaTech's latest process, in conjunction with the IOC-DBT Centre for Advanced Bio-Energy Research based in India, is now turning CO2 emissions into omega-3 fatty acids. LanzaTech-developed microbes produce acetate that is then consumed as carbon and energy by specially developed algae rich in omega-3. The algae can then be either directly eaten by fish or the oil extracted and turned into a marketable fish oil supplement.
Like humans, fish are unable to naturally produce essential omega-3 fatty acids and so they have to be consumed as part of their diet.
The omega-3 industry, which includes plant-based supplements such as those made from flaxseed and chia, is estimated to be worth US$4.3 billion by 2019. To keep up with the global demand, the aquaculture industry currently uses mass quantities of wild fish as feed - contributing to the over-fishing crisis.
Earlier this week, The United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said greenhouse gas emissions needed to be eliminated by the end of the century. A previous report said poor fisheries management, which has contributed to 80 per cent of the world's fish stock being fully or over exploited, is the largest threat to ocean life and habitats.
Head of LanzaTech Dr. Jennifer Holmgren said the discovery was about showing that carbon waste should be seen as a viable option for the production of fuels and resources. "A platform that can produce sustainable food and fuels economically and at scale turns the issue of food versus fuels on its head."
The executive director of IOC-DBT, Dr. D K Tuli, said a pilot plant facility would be set up in 2015 to further develop the product. "This project can be a game changer for production of omega-3 fatty acids and oil from algae in an economically viable method," he said.