FARMING THE FUTURE OF FOOD (and protecting the future of our Ocean)
Miguel Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health – Plant-based nutrition is a global and growing movement, with millions of people worldwide now adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet. For some, this is a lifestyle; for others, a fashionable trend, something cool and new; it can also be a life changing, even life-saving, health choice. Regardless of the motivation, the stakes for the movement are high: the world population is growing from 7.5 to 10 billion people by 2050, and we need alternative sources of nutrition to feed this population while respecting our planet1.
One of the global systems that stands to benefit from plant-based nutrition is our Ocean, which holds some of the most important – and fragile – ecosystems on the planet. And the Ocean needs our help: overfishing and other human activity disrupting marine ecosystems, agricultural runoff, and the impacts of climate change are immediate threats. Krill in particular are in danger2 and, without action, marine life – especially in the Antarctic – will continue to decline.
I’ve long believed we can find a way to address this challenge of providing nutrition to our global population, and recently we’ve found a potential solution in one of the smallest organisms on the planet: microalgae. At iWi, we are farming this amazing crop in the southwestern US to produce nutritional products in a radically sustainable way3, while having zero impact on the fragile marine ecosystems we most need to protect.
A super crop:
Why are we focused on algae? Simply put, it’s the most impressive crop I’ve ever seen. After farming over 700 million pounds of vegetables per year, algae beat them all, both in terms of nutritional profile (it’s packed with nutrients and protein) and actual yield (with algae, we get a new crop every day).
To grow our algae, we use resources that otherwise would not be utilized: we consume CO2 and convert it into oxygen, and we use non-fertile land and salty (brackish) water. Since we operate in sparsely populated areas, we’re able to create jobs in small rural communities in areas like West Texas and South New Mexico. We are about 300 times more productive per acre than peas in term of essential amino acids4 (150 acres of algae equal to 45,000 acres of peas), and we use substantially less fresh water to grow them5. We also recycle over 95% of the water we use; this allows us to recover the salts and nutrients, and further limits our impact on our environment; we’re also making sure that our by-products are used in other processes.
A sustainable alternative to Ocean products:
Beyond its impressive profile as a crop, there’s another important reason for us to be so excited about this technology and the algae nutritional platform iWi is creating worldwide: we can produce traditionally marine products without having an impact on marine ecosystems (we are “ocean free”).
One example is omega-3s. Many people don’t know that fish and krill do not naturally generate the omega-3s they are so famous for – they get them from the algae they eat through their life. We extract omega-3 oil directly from algae (and we skip the middle fish, literally). In addition to providing vegan, sustainable omega-3s, our algae-based oil is the only omega-3 with glycolipids and phospholipids (together, they are “polar lipids”), which provide our product with the highest bioavailability of all omega-3s.
In addition, our algae are about 40% protein by weight, with a complete set of indispensable amino acids. This protein, and actually the whole algae, is well suited for human, fish, and animal consumption, adding a valuable source of protein to our entire food chain, and representing an alternative to other, more scarce protein sources that come from marine ecosystems.
Where we’re going:
At iWi, our purpose is “together we create sustainable food solutions for everyone and our planet.” We’re just at the start of our journey and are tackling the problem of overfishing by producing a sustainable alternative to marine-based omega-3s. By going straight to the source and getting our omega-3s from algae, we are protecting sensitive fish and krill populations while also helping inland communities play a central role in conserving the Ocean.
As we work to build the future of farming, the beauty of our platform is that we’re not proposing an alternative to conventional agriculture; rather, we’re creating an addition to conventional farming, and doing so by using renewable resources. There’s a lot more to do – we invite you to join us as we get to work. Join the Tribe!
Miguel Calatayud is the CEO of Qualitas Health, a disruptive and sustainable algae-based Nutrition company, that produces plant-based Omega-3 and plant-based Protein, using non-arable land and salt water and helps rural communities. “Together we create sustainable food solutions for everyone and our planet”
He was the COO of Ultracongelados Virto S.A., a leading frozen food company from Spain, growing over 700 million lbs./year of vegetables in 5 continents. He co-founded two food companies (including Blencor, LLC.) and done business globally for over 20 years. He serves as Vice President of the Spain-Texas Chamber of Commerce, as Board Member of GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) and as Director- Board Member in several industry related, and nonprofit organizations.
Miguel holds a 2014 – 2018 YPO Harvard Business School President´s Program, an MBA from Universidad Pontificia Comillas (ICADE), a Master of Global Logistics from ICIL, a Master of Finance from ESIC and Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the Universidad Pública de Navarra.
- Waite, R. and Vennard, D. (2018). Without changing diets, agriculture alone could produce enough emissions to surpass 1.5°C of global warming. https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/we-cant-limit-global-warming-15c-without-changing-diets
- Flores, H., et al. (2012). Impact of climate change on Antarctic Krill, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 458, pp. 1-19. doi: 10.3354/meps09831. http://epic.awi.de/30614/
- Crane, R. (2018) Experts say algae is the food of the future. Here’s why. CNN Money, Mission Ahead. https://money.cnn.com/2018/06/01/technology/algae-food/index.html
- Mekonnen, M.M., and Hoekstra, A., Y. (2010). The Green, Blue, and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products, Vol. 1: Main Report. http://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol1.pdf
- Tessari, P., Lante, A., and Mosca, G. (2016). Essential amino acids: master regulators of nutrition and environmental footprint? Nature Scientific Reports, 6, Article Number 26074. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep26074