Israeli biotech boffins cook up algae falafel to feed the world

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Israeli biotech boffins cook up algae falafel to feed the world

Technion graduates invent Algafalafel, which last month won first prize at the EIT Food Project competition

Joe Millis is a journalist

A group of Technion students has come up with a plan to feed a protein-scarce world – with algae-based falafel. And no, this isn’t a load of balls.

With the world facing a global protein shortage – and the population expected to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050 – ways are needed to feed them all. And with finite land and water resources, this will be quite a challenge.

A team of graduate students from the Technion’s Biotechnology and Food Engineering Faculty invented Algafalafel , which last month won first prize at the EIT Food Project competition held at the university.

The Algafalafel are enriched with spirulina, which is a “biomass of blue-green algae which produce their own food by photosynthesis without a living organic carbon”, according to the university. Dried spirulina contains 5 percent water, 24 percent carbohydrates, 8 percent fat, and about 60 percent protein.

Chickpeas, the main component of falafel, are also considered to be rich in protein. However, their protein content is only 20 percent.

The “tahini” on the falafel is also enriched with astaxanthin, “a health-promoting compound found naturally in certain algae and seafood”, said the Technion.

Spirulina, which grows in both fresh and saltwater, is one of the foods that has long been suggested as scientists tackle the concerns of food insecurity. Cultivating spirulina requires less land and water than producing cattle or poultry.

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