Dutch researchers probe animal feed potential of algae

Dutch researchers are increasing their focus on the use of algae in animal feed, suggesting that algae could become an “interesting alternative to soya”.

“Processing algae in animal feed is probably not the first thing that occurs to producers,” said Wageningen University’s algae expert, Rommie van der Weide.  “Yet the green stuff seems highly appropriate for this purpose.

“Studies show that using algae as animal feed ensures better quality eggs, milk and possibly meat, and that it boosts growth in piglets, chickens and lambs, among others.  In addition, algae are rich in protein, making them an interesting alternative to soya.”

While agreeing that producing algae for feed in the Netherlands is currently too expensive, as a process, to compete with imported soya, the Wageningen researchers have developed an “algae opportunity map” which charts the possibilities for using microalgae as a feedstock stream for animal feed. It indicates both advantages and disadvantages, alongside other information for feed producers and farmers who may be considering processing algae for feed.

Further research into algae and its feed potential is ongoing at Wageningen, with algae, produced in photobioreactors and open ponds, being used in animal feed, mineral licks and a feed supplement for horses.

“We are happy to cooperate with farmers and animal feed producers in public-private partnerships to demonstrate how useful algae can be,” added Ms Van der Weide. “This allows us to test a number of questions both through practical trials and in a laboratory.”

Key current research questions include looking at which types of algae have a good effect on immunity; studying when in their growth algae have the highest added value and which is the best way to cultivate them.

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