7 Days from Seed to Harvest: Cellana, and the rise of algae in a world seeking more, faster, better

September 12, 2017 |

The Bottom Line

Rice, maize, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, and tubers (cassava, potato, taro). That’s pretty much the line-up of staple crops from which we derive the bulk of our human nutrition. By weight, fruits and veggies and other oilseeds are an essential but limited and diverse set of supplements.

Meats and dairy are in many ways a secondary product raised from staple crops( in the case of fish, from the big fish/little fish food chain). And there are forest resources we use for fuels, chemical and biomaterials.

Bottom line, we’ve had 8,000 years or so of agriculture and we’ve come up with 8 or so major staple crops, or one every 1,000 years or so. When a new one comes along, we probably shouldn’t be thinking to ourselves that a) it’s going to be like falling off a log or b) it’s no big deal. It’s a 1,000 year event, and it might take decades, centuries, even millennia to uncover all the applications and perfect the husbandry of a new crop.

The science is arriving because we are entering the Age of Invisibles — we are able to effectively manage and industrialize of things we can’t see with our eyes. Algae, hadron colliders, silicon-based circuitry, wireless radio signals, heat-sensing missiles, stealth tech, nanotech, robotic manufacturing, microbial fermentation, quantum dot computation.

Now, the Age of Invisibles is arriving in agriculture. We’re seeing drones above our heads, wired fields, sensor-based water delivery, meat without the cow, milk without the cow, leather without the cow. We live in a strange world that is getting stranger.

Hunger and science are a potent combination. Algae provides a potent answer to the pressing question of “who will feed China” — not to mention, “who will fuel China?”

Algae’s promise is simple: a new staple crop, in all the ways that can be of profound impact to our civilization. It’s progress: light-speed by agriculture’s standards, but agonizingly slow to a society that expects quarterly results, Moore’s Law technology speed, and adoption at the Facebook rate.

Some wise thinker said that the path to riches lay in finding something that the world really needs that you are absolutely the very best at providing. When it comes to productivity, algae makes a very good case as the next staple crop.

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