In an effort to lower the carbon footprint of your diet, maybe you’ve swapped out a beef burger for one made from plants. But growing crops like peas and potatoes can still be resource-intensive, requiring lots of land, fresh water, and fertilizer, the abundant use of which is degrading our soil and polluting the water and air. Instead of looking to replace meat with plants, food startup Akua is looking to the ocean with the launch of its kelp burger.
Akua (previously named Beyond the Shoreline) has already launched a line of kelp jerky. Cofounder and CEO Courtney Boyd Myers says she was drawn to seaweed for a few reasons. Along with its health benefits, seaweed provides some environmental advantages. “If you think about food systems with kelp, it doesn’t require dry land or fresh water or fertilizer or feed to grow, so it’s what is called a zero-input food,” Boyd Myers says. “If you can grow zero-input food abundantly to feed the planet, you’re in a really good place.” Kelp farms also naturally sequester a lot of carbon, so creating a larger market for kelp could help suck up even more emissions.
And finally, there’s the economic impact that comes with supporting kelp farmers. “These fishermen start to make more of a living by being ocean gardeners, if you will,” she says, putting less of a strain on the fishing supply. Investing in sustainable ocean practices can have huge global benefits. According to the nonprofit World Resources Institute, every $1 invested in ocean sustainability generates $5 of benefits for the planet.
For its kelp burger, Akua works with women-owned kelp farms off the coast of Maine. The Akua burger also includes cremini mushrooms, black beans, quinoa, crushed tomatoes, and pea protein, which plant-based burger eaters may recognize as an ingredient in Beyond Burgers. Boyd Myers says the Akua kelp burger isn’t meant to mimic meat in the way Beyond and Impossible burgers do, but assures it’ll still be satisfying to meat eaters.