Today, a startup called the Algae Cooking Club introduced its first product, a chef-grade algae-based cooking oil. According to the company, the new oil has a smoke point of 535 °F, much higher than olive or corn oil, with a high density of Omega-9 fats (93%).
The high Omega-9 concentration is due to the utilization of microalgae, known for its efficiency in producing heart-healthy fats. Unlike macroalgae, those multi-cellular and visible-to-the-eye organisms like seaweed, microalgae are single-cell organisms usually found in lakes, streams, and oceans. However, the Cooking Club doesn’t spend its time or resources trying to scoop up enough of these little guys to churn out its oil; instead, it uses (what else?) giant metal vats to create them via fermentation.
The company feeds the microalgae sugar in bioreactors, where the organisms convert into oil, a process that allows them to bypass the need to harvest algae from natural habitats. Within just a few days, the algae achieves an oil content of approximately 80% by weight. From there, the algae undergoes an ‘expeller pressing’ technique, which the company compares to the process used in the olive oil industry. This means applying pressure to the algae to separate the oil from the biomass. Afterwards, they bottle up the resulting cooking oil.
The unveiling of Algae Cooking Club’s cooking oil comes at a time when the broader food industry recognizes the need to find ways to produce food more sustainably and without as much CO2 impact. Findings from researchers at The University of California, San Diego, reveal that algae, through rapid photosynthetic growth, can produce significantly more biomass than traditional crops like corn using the same amount of land. This efficiency, coupled with algae’s minimal impact on biodiversity and its ability to grow in conditions that would otherwise be unsuitable for agriculture, continue to thrust algae – and increasingly solutions based on microalgae – into the conversation about the future of more sustainable food production.
The Algae Cooking Club’s product isn’t the first algae-based cooking oil. In 2015, TerraVia (then known as Solazyme) launched an algae-based product line under the Thrive brand, and the Thrive algae-based cooking oil gained some dedicated customers due to its high smoke point. Unfortunately, that product was discontinued, so now Algae Cooking Club hopes to tap into those customers left behind by Thrive and, I imagine, grow the market significantly for the category.
The oil can be purchased at the company’s website for $25 per bottle (less if you subscribe).