Leading off the Wednesday plenary session at GLIMPSE 2020 was Becky Timmons, Alltech’s Director of Applications Research and Quality Assurance. Timmons shared Alltech’s vision in investing $200 million to develop a heterotrophic algae production facility in Winchester, Kentucky. Using this closed-system technology, algae growth is rapid and efficient under tightly controlled conditions, ensuring an end-product that is highly consistent, traceable, and protected by the Alltech Quality System.
Alltech has committed to applying their algae technology to the production of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Why DHA? Fish and fish products (fish meal, fish oil) are the primary sources of dietary DHA, which is essential for brain and eye development, cardiovascular health and immune function. Unfortunately, in response to cost and contamination issues (e.g., dioxins, mercury), fish products have been increasingly replaced with vegetable ingredients in the diets of farmed fish, leading to a 50% decline in fish DHA content since 2005.
This downturn in DHA supplies has created a major public health crisis. Already a three-year-old child in the United States consumes on average only 19 mg of DHA per day, a level far short of the recommended 150 mg per day needed for brain and eye development. With increased consumption of processed foods the intake ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has also shifted. Although a one-to-one ratio is recommended for adults, on average this ratio is now skewed closer to 15 to 1. By increasing DHA intake we have the opportunity to correct that ratio and thereby reduce risk for cardiovascular disease across a broad population.
Recognizing the urgent need for safe, dietary DHA in a world where the population is projected to reach 8 billion by 2025, Alltech responded by developing SP1 – a safe, DHA-rich algae product free of the quality risks linked with algae-derived DHA that has migrated up the food chain. When DHA-rich SP1 is fed directly to fish, poultry and cattle, the commodities of meat, eggs, and milk can be transformed into value-added, DHA-enriched functional foods designed to meet a worldwide nutritional need. Furthermore, achieving this transformation has been shown to have no adverse effects on animal growth or food product taste.
World food supply challenges are changing fast. We can unleash the power of algae to meet these challenges. The technology exists. The opportunities are now!