Algae are plants that live in water. They are roughly divided into macroalgae, such as seaweed and kelp, and microalgae, also known as phytoplankton.
The algae we grow at Simris are microalgae. Microalgae are microscopic plants that live in the sea, and belong to the earth’s most ancient organisms. They live on sunlight and form the basis of the marine food chain. This means that algae naturally produce many essential nutrients, which are necessary not only for sea-life but also for human and animal health and well-being.
Small and Colourful
Algae live basically anywhere where there is water, and can be found in the oceans, in lakes, and in rivers. They do not grow by becoming larger, but by dividing themselves, so they grow in number instead. In nature, you can not detect individual algae with the naked eye, but if there are enough gathered in a group, the water will shimmer with their colours. The green or red spots that can be seen on the rocks on the beach are also algae.
If you examine algae under a microscope, you will recognize an amazing variety of species. There are hundred thousands of different kinds of algae in the oceans, and most are still completely unexplored. Green, brown and red algae are most common, and the colour varies depending on the pigments (colorants) that algae produce to harness light. There are even bioluminescent algae, that are responsible for some visually stunning phenomena such as red tides and glowing waves.
Origin of Life
Microalgae belong to the Earth’s oldest organisms and are the basis of life as we know it today. They are the origin of plants and gave rise to the planet’s oxygen-rich air, which we animals and humans need to live. Billions of years ago, microalgae learned to live by photosynthesis, i.e. by harnessing sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and then releasing oxygen instead. Even today, between 70 and 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from the algae in the oceans.
Algae also form the basis of the marine food chain, and produce substances that are essential to life of all animals living in the oceans. For example, omega-3 oils in fatty fish and the red color of salmon and shellfish come from algae. It is these substances that are so nutritious for us humans as well.
Algae farming, an ancient art for the future
People have cultivated and consumed algae since ancient times, due to their superior nutritional value. In South America, Africa and Asia, people still harvest algae from natural lakes, or grow them in simple basins where the stirring is performed manually. The harvest is done by straining algae water and letting the sun dry the algae mass on draining cloths or in sand pits.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, interest took off to grow algae on an industrial scale, initially in order to solve the imminent food supply problem as a result of the earth’s rapidly growing population. During the oil crisis in the seventies, research also began to use algae as a feedstock for renewable fuels, and to replace fossil crude oil with crude oil from algae.
During the past decade, interest in algae farming is growing again, and technology is developing at a fast pace. Algae are grown on land in open ponds or in high-tech closed systems, to obtain the desired oil or other important products. Today, farmed algae are used commercially for many exclusive products such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food and health supplements.
The sun-packed treasure from the Sea
There are hundreds of thousands of different varieties of algae, but only a fraction have been researched and characterised. Only about a dozen species are cultivated commercially today. You might already be familiar with spirulina, chlorella or the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which comes from algae.
Algae naturally produce many unique substances, which are vital for human and animal health and well-being. In the quest for natural food and health products, we think that algae are a fantastic and virtually unexploited resource. It is our mission at Simris to harness these beneficial substances, so that more people can enjoy these sun-packed gifts of the sea.
Algae as a healthy and sustainable oil crop
Algae are a new, healthy and environmentally friendly oil crop for tomorrow’s precision farming. Algae farming is very area-efficient compared to other land-based crops, and can provide 22 times more oil per hectare than canola under Swedish climatic conditions. In addition, algae farming does not compete for valuable agricultural land for food production. Algae farming is really environmentally smart and can replace unsustainable oil production in several areas.
Algal oil is a valuable commodity for many healthy and nutritious food and health products. And just like the sunny yellow canola fields give us oil for both food and bioenergy, algae oil can also be used for both healthy food and renewable fuels.
The Simris Algaepedia
With hundreds of thousands of varieties of algae to choose from, it is safe to admit that the potential of algae has yet to be explored at its fullest! At Simris, we are fascinated by the diversity of the wonderful world of algae and we have made it our mission to spread the love we share for them.
The supergoodies that Simris offers, all feature different types of algae, some that are already enjoying some fame, and others that are yet to become the stars that they deserve to be in the food world. It is our mission to introduce everyone to the diverse world of algae, one step at a time. Have a look at the Simris Algaepedia, for a unique “behind the scenes” view of our algae supergoodies and the algae that they feature!
Dunaliella, the “saffron of the sea”
Scientific name: Dunaliella salina
Style: Green and drop-shaped with whiskers, single-celled
Skills: High in beta-carotene, superb as natural food colouring or nutritional supplement!
Thrives in: Really salty waters, marine waters
Starring in: Sun Candy Algae Tea, Flower Power Algae Tea
Haematococcus, the “Astaxanthin one”
Scientific name: Haematococcus pluvialis
Style: Green and round with whiskers, single-celled
Skills: Under bright light and the right conditions, it transforms into larger red cells filled with astaxanthin!
Thrives in: Anything from rain pools near the ocean to freshwater lakes, mainly in temperate regions
Starring in: Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Athletes, Boosting Astaxanthin
Phaeodactylum, the “shapeshifter”
Scientific name: Phaeodactylum tricornutum
Style: Golden brown, single-celled. It can morph into three different shapes: oval, then elongated “spiky”, and finally a three-spiked cell
Skills: Fast growing, can produce EPA omega-3 from sunlight!
Thrives in: Marine environments and algae farms
Starring in: Simris® Algae Omega-3, Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Athletes
Schitzochytrium, the “sweet tooth”
Scientific name: Schizochytrium sp.
Style: Yellow and round with whiskers, single-celled. Likes to form clusters of cells
Skills: Really good at producing high amounts of DHA omega-3!
Thrives in: Coastal marine waters
Starring in: Simris® Algae Omega-3, Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Athletes, Simris® Algae Omega-3 for Mothers
Spirulina, the “superfood”
Scientific name: Arthrospira platensis
Style: Blue and long and curly (helical shaped). Arthrospira form colonies (superstructures) with each other
Skills: Packed with vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene and antioxidants! They also have very high protein content, with a well-balanced composition of all essential amino acids.
Thrives in: Shallow tropical and subtropical lakes in Africa, Asia and South America
Starring in: Sundried Spirulina