Microalgae cultivated in seawater in a laboratory
Microalgae living in oceans and freshwater lakes can convert carbon dioxide and water into a range of organic compounds, starting with carbohydrates through photosynthesis and on to fats, proteins and more.
Microalgae have always been regarded as nature's green gold and many Hong Kong companies are working in the field. Commercialising microalgae will promote sustainable agriculture, achieve environmentally sustainable development and create green opportunities.
Hong Kong firm Srikandi Food Co Ltd, which produces and markets authentic Indonesian food, noticed there was consumer demand for plant-based protein. The firm chose Tuen Mun to open a factory making tempeh – fermented Indonesian soyabean paste. Srikandi has started adding microalgae to tempeh. Combining the super foods creates a product rich in nutrients, such as protein and vitamins.
Kenny Wong, Founder of Srikandi, said: “Hong Kong consumers have a great demand for healthy food, and more and more young people are interested in vegetarian food. We previously expected that tempeh would only attract the favour of vegetarians and the elderly, but it turns out that many young people nowadays are flexitarians.”
Biotechnology start-up Govita Tech is engaged in life science research and development and also believes sustainable development has become a general trend. Since its establishment at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation in 2016, the company has actively promoted biotechnology development, providing innovative medical solutions to help the public manage health.
Its business development director Raymond Hu noted that microalgae are actually widely used in health products: “There are also many microalgae nutritional supplements on the market. Their functions include enhancing immunity, improving the digestive system and providing more comprehensive nutrients. Our medical supplements have proprietary formulae and as Hong Kong’s capabilities in R&D and production of microalgae continues to improve, I think there is great potential for the development of microalgae in Hong Kong.”
Ingredients derived from microalgae can be added to skin-care products. Hong Kong skin-care brand Biofit International has launched a series of microalgae skin care products. Biofit Founder Agnes Li said many young people realise cosmetics with synthetic ingredients were not environmentally friendly.
The firm chose to incorporate microalgae ingredients, such as algae from genus Euglena, Spirulina and Chlorella, into skin care products, so the public could enjoy a sustainable skin care experience.
Hong Kong is encouraging microalgae R&D to create a green and liveable city. The Hong Kong SAR Government has announced a blueprint to strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, promoting three major directions: energy conservation, green transport and waste reduction at source.
The seminar panellists agreed that Hong Kong had a bright future in the microalgae development. For Mr Hu, Hong Kong already has the innovation and technology capabilities and conditions to develop microalgae: “From research and development to actual production, microalgae can be said to be a multi-value-added product, which is very suitable for Hong Kong's business environment.”
Mr Wong said the food industry would work together to explore microalgae applications and let the public understand microalgae.
Hong Kong has tight regulations for skin-care products. All Biofit’s Hong Kong factories obtained GMP certification to ensure everything from research to production was safe and reliable. The firm submits samples to a credible testing centre for quality control.“We hope to build the brand into a brand that Hong Kong people are proud of,” Ms Li said.