Printed Chlorella supplement

Printable algal food supplement

Nutraceuticals from algae
Nutraceuticals from algae (Images from Internet)

CMYK nutraceuticals from Algae Printing
Algae have long been a compact source of health food because of their high content of beneficial nutrients or ‘nutraceuticals’: Chlorella for its chlorophylls and carotenoids; Spirulina for its phycobiliproteins; Dunaliella for β-carotene and Haematococcus pluvialis for astaxanthin. There is an interrelation between colour and light and this is at play in these algal nutrients as their role in nature is to act as photopigments within the photosynthetic apparatus to capture a specific region of the visible spectrum thereby giving rise to a characteristic colour. The health benefits of many of these molecules comes from their anti-oxidant activities.

The development of Algae Printing opens up the possibility of ‘printing out’ health-food strains on edible paper like rice paper and create organic algal supplements for personalized consumption, with photopigments being used for functionality (nutraceuticals) as well as for aesthetic coding. Selecting a CMYK range of health-food strains, one can design personal supplementary recipes in a visual and contemporary language. In the urban environment, algae could be grown like herbs for personal consumption and so add a new dimension to modern food culture.

Text and images © Marin Sawa 2016

Featured image (top): Printed Chlorella food supplement with a Algaerium Bioprinter bioink cartridge containing Chlorella cells. Exhibited at the smart technologies and new design exhibition, Leipzig, Germany in October 2013. Credit: Photography by Benjamin Orgis

Algae at the intersection of social and natural ecologies 

Photos by Marzio Marzot from FAO report 2004
Wild algae at the intersection of social and natural ecologies : Women of the Kanembu tribe at Lake Chad, Africa, harvest wild blooms of Spirulina using clay pots and sun-dry on sand beds (Images from Marzio Marzot for FAO report 2004, also featured in Henrikson 2000)

Without easy access to fish, meat or vegetables on arid land, the traditional use utilised local wild blooms of the freshwater cyanobacterium Spirulina adapted to alkalinity. From harvesting, dewatering, making of Dihé (blocks of dried cells) to selling them in their local market or using them in their family recipes, the traditional process still continue to play a socio-cultural, economic role in the tribal lives. However, in the face of climate change (Gore 2006), such traditional systems can become victim.

The farming and production of modern algal supplements are far removed from cultural or social ecologies of the consumers due to industrial manufacturing and climate-specific cultivation. Using closed culture systems, Algae Printing is a way to bring back the socio-cultural dimension by once again humanising the bioprocessing scale and method. In the context of the urban environment, digital printing serves equivalent to such social practice.