07 May Micro-algae can help move the world to sustainability
Whapow is a small food-tech company with an exponential vision. Interestingly, Ingo Puhl, one of the co-founders, is not a foodie but has dedicated his career to fight global warming. He moved to Thailand 12 years ago with the ambition of accelerating the renewable energy transformation in Southeast Asia. Five years ago, he became interested in the climate footprint of the food industry discovering micro-algae as the single best and possibly massively disruptive solution to move the needle on the climate impact of the food industry.
Micro-algae are single-cell organisms who are the original building blocks of life. Their ultimate purpose became to fuel more complex forms of life. They exist in total abundance, they are designed to grow and replicate with the highest possible efficiency, they contain everything that more complex life forms need to run (amino acids, minerals, vitamins), which then in turn, through evolutionary progress become the feed-stock of even more complex forms of life. If you go back far enough in any food chain you will get to single-cell organisms.
They are the “machines” that convert non-organic inputs and energy from the sun into bio-available organic compounds.
In fact, the photosynthetic cyanobacteria – which is what spirulina is – are arguably the most successful bacteria, and changed the early atmosphere of the earth by oxygenating it.
In other words: single cell organisms such as spirulina are the original fuel of life.
The ecological disaster created by our current food system is caused by so much inefficiency in processing basic nutrients that are already present in very simple life forms via a set of organisms and conversion/extraction processes that are part of our food chain into the food products we consume, creating waste products in the process and using massive resources.
Whapow’s goal is to go back to the original fuel of life and inject it directly into the foods we consume (in a way that is acceptable and convenient), and – when available in large enough quantities – also into animal feed, thus cutting out 80% of the waste/inefficiency associated with the animal feed chain.
Ingo explains that spirulina/cyanobacteria are an original fuel of all life, a modest, invisible superhero organism played a key role in oxygenating our planet and atmosphere, thus enabling life, creating organic compounds at scale, thereby enabling the evolution of more complex forms of life with abundant availability and zero waste in production.
Ingo says, “The world is in dire need of a superhero – we are making the planet unlivable again, our atmosphere, oceans, and lands need another clean-up, it is time for this superhero to come back.”
Look at the success of plant-based meats. e.g., Impossible Burger, Vegan Butcher Shop. They managed to take an iconic dish – a burger – fast, convenience food, not really healthy, and turn it into a sustainability champion. By comparison, micro-algae can outperform even those great burger alternatives by another order of magnitude in terms of GHG emissions and by at least two orders of magnitude in relation to water consumption.
What Chef Massimo Bottura and chefs around the world did for Parmesan cheese to save the city of Modena after the earthquake in 2012, Whapow would like to do with micro-algae and to save the world from global warming, massive deforestation, and overfishing …. Story: https://www.upworthy.com/this-world-renowned-chef-saved-his-towns-economy-with-cheese-and-rice.
Whapow’s ambition is to create a mass movement powered by chefs and the food services industry for the adoption of micro-algae as a key ingredient in super-delicious, nutritious and convenient food items, positioning it as a key ingredient in iconic mainstream dishes. The starting point: shakes/smoothies and frozen grab-n-go snacks, meeting the criteria of convenience, potential to be a daily food & beverage option.
The challenge is to drive demand for micro-algae to create scale economics on production: the company believes that if it can grow production from currently 20 ktons a year to 500 ktons, the per kg costs will be able to displace less sustainable protein sources in a wide range of new food applications, including animal feed and when that is achieved the carbon footprint (as well as water use) associated with eating meat will drop by 80% so that even those who do not want to give up meat can now do so leaving a massively lower resource footprint.
Whapow is currently available at Villa Markets (in the premium ice cream, and frozen food section), online at (honestbee.co.th) and just recently launched the “Super Bowl” in collaboration with Dressed Thailand. The company is interested in new partnerships with retail, hospitality, and food service firms.