Microalgae start-up grows ‘super crop’ for baby food and sports nutrition

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/greenleaf123
©GettyImages/greenleaf123

Related tags: microalgae, israel, start-up, Baby food

Israeli start-up Yemoja has developed a ‘super intensive’ growing platform for microalgae, which CEO Eyal Shalmon says he hopes will bring the ‘super crop’ into the mainstream.

Three-year-old Yemjo was founded by a team of marine biology and biotech specialists with a shared vision: to tap novel engineering methods for the cultivation of microalgae species.

In the food space, the start-up is targeting baby food and sports nutrition categories.

A niche ingredient

Yemoja prides itself on being able to produce algae-centred ingredients standardized to any bioactive compound or algae extract, including fucoxanthins​, polysaccharides, xanthophylls​, carotenoids, and enzymes.

The start-up is currently growing a range of species, CEO Eyal Shalmon told FoodNavigator, including Porphyridium, Phaedactylum, and Dunaliela (salina and bardawil). The company has experience growing Haematococcus recently started working on a ‘new and unknown’ species, which has potential for baby food formulation, he revealed.

Despite microalgae’s nutritional and sustainability benefits, Yemoja suggested the marine ingredient remains rather niche.

“There is a vast ocean of microalgae species not yet discovered, and only a dozen or so are commercially available,”​ noted the CEO. “The market is still in the early stages of tapping into the immense potential of these marine ‘super crops’.

“Our mission is to boost the entire microalgae value chain with new varieties and yields, and bring them to the mainstream of high-end nutraceutical food and cosmeceutical spheres with additional formulations in the pipeline.”

Nutrition and sustainability

From a nutrition standpoint, the Phorphyridum species is a polysaccharide, Shalmon explained, which acts as a UV protector. The species is also linked to anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle properties, we were told.

Phaedactylun is known for its weight management and fatty liver properties, due to its Fucoxanthin, and the Dunaliela variety has been associated with eye health, Shalmon continued.

Concerning microalgae’s environmental benefits, the CEO explained that with Yemoja’s technology, cultivation uses little water and land, and maintains a ‘very low’ carbon footprint.

“At the same time, microalgae grow fast and are highly nutritious, so it can feed a growing population. It has multifaceted benefits, rendering this microorganism a super crop.”

Yemoja 1
The start-up has developed a 'super intensive' growing system / Image source: Yemoja

CTO and co-founder Amikam Bar-Gil described microalgae as ‘sunlight-driven, single-celled factories’, which are by nature ‘highly resilient and versatile’.

“They also are a powerful source of natural, vegan, bioactive ingredients. Our innovative approach serves to create pure, sustainable microalgae-derived products of the highest quality, and that can be naturally adapted into any desired matrix.”

A ‘super intensive’ growing system

According to Yemoja, its patented, ‘super intensive’ growing system is able to overcome many of commercial algae industry’s hurdles. Such challenges include achieving compositional homogeneity, scalability, and contamination proofing.

Further, the company said its method, which relies on ‘fast-track photobioreactor’ technology, ensures clean and safe microalgae throughout the entire process.

“Yemoja’s patented technology evolved from a deep-rooted appreciation of biopharma and marine sciences, supported by extensive experience in algae cultivation,”​ noted COO and co-founder Erez Ashkenazi. “This unprecedented capacity was collectively harnessed to produce a variety of pure algae at any scale, and in a short time — something the microalgae market has not witnessed until now.”

The closed cultivation system controls key parameters in the growing process, such as temperature, pH, light, and CO₂ emissions, and allows for multiple species to be grown simultaneously.

This ensures consistent supply of highly standardized specialty ingredients and offers new capabilities to meet the specific needs of suppliers, noted the firm.

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