In 2015, 193 countries came together for a mission to improve the health of the planet. With a view to improve the way we live, the countries made a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

UN flags

United Nations, CC BY-NC-ND

You must be wondering what this has to do with algae - well, everything! Algae are the foundation of all life on Earth, renew more than half of our oxygen everyday and impact sustainability deeply.

Whether you are interested in tasty food, money, jobs or a clean environment, there is something for you in the world of algae. Algae can help to make our planet feel great again.

Navigate the goals sections below for discovering how algae and the work of the algonauts is a solution on the way to sustainability. Stay tuned, new active links and information added regularly!

Goal 01: No poverty

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Social development through seaweed cultivation

Seaweed cultivation can improve the livelihood in coastal communities and provide new jobs. In the future, many more industrial employment opportunities could be created through the development of large scale ocean farming systems.

Algonauts who work on this:

Some outlooks and experience from:

  • India: D. Sahoo, CRK. Reddy, P. Gosh, K. Eswaran, M. Sakhtivel
  • Indonesia: A. Alamsjah
  • Malaysia: A. Rahiman
  • Philippines: A. Hurtado
Further reading:

FAO report (2013) about the social and economic dimensions of carrageenan seaweed farming, benefits and challenges.

UN link

Goal 02: Zero hunger

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Seaweeds contribute to improved nutrition

Being a plant-like species, but growing on water, algae could contribute to sustainability through expanded food production. Further, algae are often used to provide a full nutritive meal and help in performing more sustainable agriculture.

With the world population expected to rise to 9 billion inhabitants by 2050, high quality protein sources will be in demand. Animal proteins come at a very high environmental cost due. Cattle production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (methane) and require more arable land (factor of deforestation). Growing algae is environmentally friendly and doesn’t have these problems. They are considered as a novel protein source, along with insects, duckweed and rapeseed.

Traditionally used as food in some cultures, and fertilizers in others, there are numerous developments in this space highlighted below.

Algonauts who work on this:
  • The nutritional benefits of algae: H. Marfaing, J. Teas
  • Democratizing the consumption of algae: L. Munoz, C. Masferrer, R. Queva, S. le Corre
  • Preserve traditional knowledge on algal cuisine: L. Munoz, A. Gutierrez, P. Winberg
  • Extracts from algae are used as stabilisers, stiffeners and thickeners in a variety of processed food industries: E. Montano, S. Kusniwirjono, A. Rahiman
  • Cultivating microalgae in a pig farm, using methanisation coproducts: P. Signes
  • Manufacture of fertilizers, biostimulants for plants and animal feed from seaweeds: S. Arai, A. Critchley, L. Deveau, JP Deveau
Further reading:
UN link

Goal 03: Good health and well-being

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Malnourishment correction through Spirulina cultivation, India

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Spirulina for malnourishment correction (micronutrients deficiencies): D. Arthi
  • Clinical research on the health benefits of seaweeds: J. Teas
  • Bioactive compounds from seaweeds: E. Ar Gall, V. Stiger-Pouvreau
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 04: Quality education

Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Kelab Alami: Coastal management through environmental education, Malaysia

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Environmental management through science education in coastal communities in Johor Bahru, Malaysia: S. Rahman
  • Environmental education through art in Chiloe, Chile: V. Olguens
  • Interdisciplinary cross-training, cross-fertilization of ideas and co-production of knowledge in a cooperative: the experience of the Laboscop
Further reading:
UN link

Goal 05: Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Cooperative of algueras, women harvesting seaweed, Chile

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Women empowerment through Spirulina cultivation: D. Arthi
  • Women in seaweed cultivation : O. Barbaroux, M. Rakkamal, H. Triaji
  • Cooperatives of algueras in Chile: L. Jimenez, C. Masferrer
  • Choice of machinery which can be operated by men and women. This helps create an equal gender ratio for a sustainability-oriented company: E.J Rajesekaran
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 06: Clean water and sanitation

Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Wastewater treament, New Zealand

Algae are often used to clean water. This practice is called phycoremediation. This is the use of algae for the removal, or biotransformation, of pollutants and toxic compounds from wastewater and carbon dioxide from effluent air stream. They also help remove the elements in water which would have led to the growth of harmful bacteria and consecutive problems.

Algonauts who work on this:

The following Algonauts use algae for cleaning water (bioremediation). They lead research on:

  • Wastewater treatment: R. Craggs
  • Industrial effluent treatment: V. Sivasubramanian, E. Rajesekaran
  • Radioactive element capture: D. Joester, M. Krejci
  • Oil slick and hydrocarbon pollution: V. Sivasubramanian, M.N. Yusof
  • Nutrient bioextraction (also called bioharvesting) consists into the practise of farming and harvesting shellfish and seaweeds for the purpose of removing nitrogen and other nutrients from natural waters: C. Yarish
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 07: Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Algobased biofuel research, Australia

Algae - seaweeds and microalgae - can potentially produce biofuels in several forms - such as biodiesel, biogas, biohydrogen and bioethanol. They present several advantages as compared to land plants: high growth rates, ability to grow on non arable land, appreciable content of lipids (energy-rich compounds). Their contents can be optimized under controlled conditions and chemically converted to fuels. It has been shown that they are more efficient than terrestrial plants in converting sunlight to biochemical energy. Major challenges remain such as the poor returns on financial and energy investments and the fundamental limitations on the physicochemical efficiencies of light harvesting of the biomass.

The concept of algal-based biorefinery relies on the efficient use of algal biomass in multiple individual products.

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Biofuels and biorefinery projects? some opinions from the Algonauts: D. Sahoo, V. Sivasubramanian, M. Borowitska, R. Kaas, P. Gosh, A. Critchley, S. O’Leary, S. Kumar, A. Simoes
Further reading:
UN link

Goal 08: Decent work and economic growth

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

Diversification of fishermen activities through seaweed cultivation, Brazil

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Diversification of activities L. Hayashi, R. Allard, E. Tamigneaux
  • Seaweed industry identified as a priority in the National Key Economic Areas in Malaysia: A. Rahiman
  • Publication from a collective of researchers, including several Algonauts : “Seaweeds: an opportunity for wealth and sustainable livelihood for coastal communities” Article
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 09: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Algo-sourced plastics, France

Algae hold promise in the development of biodegradable, innovative biomaterials. Because of the environmental conditions in which they develop, they synthesize original chemical compounds which can have specific applications in the industry.

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Algo-sourced papers: M. You, M. Boudalil
  • Algo-sourced plastics and biopolymer: R. Lucas, S. Mishra
  • Antifouling paints: C. Hellio, B. Da Gama, E. Plouguerne, N. Bourgougnon
  • Innovative objects for construction industry, decoration or gardening : N. Malandain
Further reading:
  • Pigments for photo-electro-chemical colar cells
  • Nanocellulose components
  • Paints: Link
  • Space exploration programs
UN link

Goal 10: Reduce inequalities

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Seaweed farming area, Philippines

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Testimonials from Philippines, Chile, Indonesia: A. Hurtado
Further reading:
UN link

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Tokyo, Japan

Algae and urban development seem quite far from each other. But that’s not the case, products made from algae are used in binding agents in all sorts of building materials. Watch this space for updates!

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Innovative objects for construction industry, decoration or gardening : N. Malandain
Further reading:
  • Construction industry: The BIQ House, the first algae-powered building in the world.
  • Urban farming in Bangkok: growing Spirulina on rooftops
UN link

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Sustainable management of seaweed resources, France

Algae are great and applications numerous, isn’t there a risk to overexploit the natural stocks? These questions have been addressed around the world for developing methods and tool in order to assure a sustainable management of the natural resource.

Another example lies in the IMTA concept: Integrated MultiTrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) performs a recycling of nutrients through various trophic levels of organisms. Different species are grown together and the waste from one becomes the resource for the other, i. e. seaweeds assimilate the fish/molluscs-excreted ammonia, phosphate and CO2 converting them into biomass and providing an important ecosystem service.

This is a blueprint for how sustainable and responsible production and consumption might look like in the future.

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Sustainable management of ressource: R. Ugarte, A. Critchley, L. Deveau, J. Vasquez, A. Gutierrez, D. Davoult
  • Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture: A. Bushmann, C. Yarish
  • An Artemia story : the pest becomes a new resource: S. Kolkovski, J. Curnow, C. Mees
  • Microalgae-based vaccines for shrimps production: Pr. Phang
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 13: Climate action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

The Asian Network for using algae as CO2 sink, South Korea

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Asian Network for using Algae as CO2 sink: Pr. Chung
  • Research on impact of global climate change on phytoplankton: J. Beardall
  • Seaweeds play a role in the coastal climate and clouds formation: P. Potin
Further reading:
  • Research led in vitro on how a natural feed additive from seaweed could reduce bovine methane emissions: Link
UN link

Goal 14: Life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Seaweed cultivation for environment-friendly aquaculture

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Preservation of seaweeds beds: D. Fujita
  • Environmental monitoring of coastal zones: E. Ar Gall
  • Research on the ecology of seaweeds: D. Davoult
  • Sustainable management of seaweed resources: R. Ugarte, D. Davoult, J. Vasquez
  • Nutrients bioextraction: C. Yarish
  • Research on biodiversity, genetics and phylogeny of algae: J. Sutherland, J. Zuccarello, A. Peters
Further reading:
  • Coming soon!
UN link

Goal 15: Life on land

Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Fertilizers from seaweeds, Japan

Algae and their derived products contribute to preserve life on land.

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Seaweeds cast upon the shore as ‘storm toss’ play an important role in stabilization, organic enrichment and soil development for dunes, as well as for supporting faunal species. N. Bourgougnon.
  • Fertilizers from seaweeds: S. Arai, A. Critchley
Further reading:
  • Alginate-coated seeds for natural site rehabilitation: coming soon!
UN link

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Seaweed farmer, Philippines

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Self Help Groups (SHG) in India: M. Sakhtivel, M. Periyasami
  • Cooperatives in Chile: L. Jimenez, S. Villanvena
Further reading:
UN link

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Scientific exchange

Algonauts who work on this:
  • Program IDEALG: P. Potin, M. Ras
  • Networks for sustainable management of resources: NETALGAE
Further reading:
UN link

This is an ongoing and non-exhaustive illustration on the role of algae in sustainability. This work led to the following scientific publication in 2014 where you can find bibliographic references on this topic: Jacquin et al., 2014.