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Unveiling New Zealand's native microalgae collection enabling new global natural nutrition from water category

NewFish is excited to share progress towards their natural nutrition from water mission, focused on the identification, cultivation and commercialization of microalgae strains suitable for sports, wellness and advanced nutrition global categories. Together with the Cawthron Institute they are selecting microalgae strains from a collection of more than 300 live strains in culture and another 300 cryopreserved that may be the next superfood as part of their New Zealand Government’s Ministry for Primary Industries-backed Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund. 


Left: New Zealand’s pristine lakes, rivers and oceans are home to thousands of native microalgae species NewFish are investigating and commercializing as natural, non-extractive food sources. Photo by Molly Spink on Unsplash
Right: Cawthron Institute’s Culture Collection of Microalgae contains ca. 700 strains of microalgae, sourced from waters around New Zealand and the Pacific.  NewFish has partnered with the Cawthron Institute to investigate the commercialization potential of this collection for human nutrition.

High protein content is a key driver when considering these microorganisms for natural nutrition food applications. But beyond functional protein, the team at NewFish are looking for several traits to ensure commercial scalability at various time horizons, namely speed of growth (some microalgae can double in biomass every day); the ability to deliver great taste and functionality when incorporated into foods as an ingredient; the ability to outcompete other microorganisms in an industrial setting; and, in the future, the ability to produce sugars that can then be used by other microalgae to produce proteins (enabling circular low impact production systems). 


Some of the front runners from their latest deep dive research are highlighted below, using nicknames until each strain has been investigated further:


‘The Adrenaline Junkie’

One of the key findings is the extraordinary potential of an extremophile microalgae they've nicknamed the Adrenaline Junkie. Many strains from this species are exceptional candidates for cultivation in fermentors due to their metabolic versatility and, for species such as this one that thrive in acidic New Zealand lakes, have the ability to grow under extreme conditions. This resilience and adaptability make the Adrenaline Junkie a top choice for preventing contamination in microalgae production, ensuring a consistently high-quality, safe source of nutrition for consumers.


‘The Pocket Rocket’

Another promising discovery is the 'Pocket Rocket' strain, which, though small in size, has demonstrated remarkable potential for rapid growth. This characteristic, combined with its adaptability and efficiency, places the Pocket Rocket among the top contenders. 


‘The Workhorse’

'The Workhorse' strain has cemented its status as the hard worker of their microalgae lineup, consistently delivering excellent results in various applications. Meanwhile, one of its cousin strains, already exhibits remarkable promise on the global stage for growing even faster, offering exciting prospects for many international markets. 


‘The Gourmand’

Incorporating 'The Gourmand' into their microalgae portfolio brings a touch of sweetness. This microalgae strain tastes good and is high in both proteins and carbohydrates, leading to momentum in countries like Portugal where it’s used for sauces, special salts and condiments.  


‘The Eco Warrior’

This is a tiny microalgae yet comes with a great power – it can naturally convert the nitrogen gas that abounds in our atmosphere  into ammonium, a nutrient critical for microalgae (and all plant life) growth. This biological nitrogen fixation renders the use of conventional ammonium unnecessary, therefore has the potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of microalgae cultivation (chemical ammonium production is responsible for about 1.82% of global CO2 emissions). 


Once a strain has been selected, NewFish grows and processes the biomass into powders that can be incorporated into delicious functional foods and nutrition.  


Left: What we see: Tropical Indo-pacific waters. Photo by Ernests Vaga on Unsplash
Right: What our scientists see:  Microscopic view of ‘Odontella aurita’ a strain that has already received approval in Europe for general food consumption. Photographed by Cawthron’s Microalgae Biotechnologist; Dr. Richard Indebrigtsen.

Microalgae are an armored organism, and some are extremely robust. Utilizing proprietary technology and IP,  NewFish breaks down that armor through processes such as high pressure homogenization to make the nutrients inside the microalgae accessible to the human body and to neutralize the taste, aroma and colour.

Left: What we see : Microalgae are present in all of our waters, those that thrive in extreme conditions make excellent candidates for a safe human food source. Photo by David Billings on Unsplash
Right: What our scientists see :  3D scientific interpretation based on Scanning electron micrograph of micro-algae for Ifremer Concarneau’s vulgarization exhibit “Art and Science”