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Munch On This Bacon-Flavored Seaweed That’s Healthier Than Kale

Researchers unveil a new strain of an edible, eco-friendly algae that combines the very best of two very different food groups.

image via (cc) flickr user sansumbrella

Sometimes it seems as if we’ve all gone a little bacon-crazy these days. From bacon-flavored alcohol to bacon-inspired art, our lust for crispy, cured pork knows no bounds. But for those who—whether for religious, health, or moral reasons—abstain from eating the stuff, researchers from Oregon State University have just the thing: Seaweed.

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Rethinking the Red Gold Rush

Overharvesting the popular gelatin alternative agar-agar puts the environment, and the harvesters, in peril.

Photo by Peter Southwood/Wikimedia Commons

In Morocco, where red seaweed is harvested off the coast of the port city of El Jadida, it is referred to as “red gold”—red seaweed is a 31-million-Euro industry in the North African country. The scarlet-hued algae are processed into agar-agar, a natural gelling agent used in drugs, cosmetics, and edibles like jelly candies. Demand for agar-agar, which is marketed as a plant-based alternative to gelatin, has risen dramatically in the past few years, and the natural commodity is becoming scarce.

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Hamburg Now Has an Algae-Powered Building

A microorganism-fueled facade also fuels a debate about energy efficiency.

Photo by NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons

Last spring, Arup, the design and engineering firm that brought the world the Centre Pompidou and the Sydney Opera House, unveiled their latest hypermodern architectural creation in Hamburg. From the outside, the surface of the 15-unit apartment building just looks like a bubbling green lava lamp stretched over an entire building. But those moving bubbles serve a function: they help to feed and order the living algae embedded within the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building’s exterior skin. In turn, the 8-foot by 2-foot glass panels of green scuzz—the building’s $6.58 million bioreactor façade—power the entire structure, making it the world’s first algae-powered and theoretically fully self-sufficient building ever.

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Is Cyber-Gardening the New Urban Gardening?

At an experimental algae farm, technology, biology, and architecture unite to educate the public.

Algae is increasingly seen as a source of tremendous potential, as scientists and entrepreneurs hurry to turn the organism into biofuel on a scale that's commercially viable. But for most people, their only interaction with the slimy stuff happens when scraping it from a fish tank—the plant is foreign, misunderstood, and too often considered "gross." A new futuristic exhibition called HORTUS (Latin for 'garden,' but in this case "Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London is educating the public with an urban algae farm that relies on humans and technology to help the plants grow.

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