KUALA NERUS: Malaysia wants to tap into the US$1.25 billion (RM5 billion) a year global microalgae consumption industry.
Known as ‘green gold’, the microalgae are some of the most primitive life forms discovered and have been consumed as food and medicine for centuries.
Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Cosmos-Satreps project advisor Dr Mohamed Shariff Mohamed Din said Malaysia was working closely with Japan to carry out research and development to cultivate microalgae commercially.
Satreps is the ‘science and technology research partnership for sustainable development’, while Cosmos is the ‘continuous operation system for microalgae production optimised for sustainable tropical aquaculture’.
The Cosmos-Satreps project, under a Malaysia-Japan initiative, costs RM12 million over a five-year period from 2016.
Among the species of microalgae being looked into were nannochloropsis, tetraselmis, chaetoceros, oscillatoria, phaedodactylum and isochrysis.
“Microalgae are used in the manufacture of cosmetics, fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, agriculture, food and environmental-friendly products.
“The Omega-3 found in microalgae is good for the heart, liver, nervous and immune system, eye-sight, brain, joints, skin, appetite suppression and burns body fat.
“Owing to rising healthcare costs and an aging population, there is great demand in the global nutraceutical market towards a healthy lifestyle, the consumption of health foods and looking beautiful,” said Dr Mohamed Shariff, who is UPM’s fish pathology research fellow.
He added that UPM, in collaboration with Dr Norio Nagao of Japan’s Soka University, was able to design energy-efficient and mass-culture photobioreactors to produce high-value microalgae.
“The microalgae are produced from recycled nutrients of acquaculture pond sludge for the environmental protection of rivers and seas from pollution.
“These microalgae are used as fish feed, water treatment, antioxidants and anticancer agents,” he said at the ‘4th International Postgraduate Conference on Biotechnology’ held in conjunction with the ‘1st Satreps-Cosmos International Symposium’ at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu in Gong Badak.
Blue-green microalgae like spirulina and chlorella, have long been known as superfoods owing to their high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and proteins.
Other forms of microalgae are used to for weight loss, cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis, stress, fatigue, depression, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and improve memory and digestion. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd