Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, will use new technology to produce omega-3 oils from ocean microbes, offering an alternative to sourcing it from wild fish and creating new economic opportunities from the ocean.

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CSIRO has signed an 18-month partnership agreement with Brisbane-based company Pharmamark Innovation to develop omega-3 oils, proteins and bioactives from marine microorganisms.

The partnership aims to unlock significant economic potential from a novel source of protein and omega-3 oils and will contribute to Australia's growing 'blue economy' target of $100 billion annual revenue by 2025.

The products will aim to boost the nutritional value of a range of food and beverages, beginning with the $89 billion global baby milk formula market.

CSIRO Research Scientist Kim Lee Chang, said the omega-3 oil was sourced from microorganisms found in the ocean, building on CSIRO's expertise in identifying and developing new sources for omega-3 oils such as engineered canola.

"Our science is underpinning the development of renewable and sustainable sources of omega-3 oils and other nutrients for which there is strong global demand," Dr Lee Chang said.

CSIRO Coasts Research Director Dr Andy Steven said investment in the blue economy could create new industries for Australia.

"Collaboration between science and industry is central to realising sustainable economic opportunities from our oceans and driving innovation in the blue economy," Dr Steven said.

"Supporting food security and global health while helping to grow Australian industry is a win-win."

Pharmamark Innovation CEO Guy Drummond said one of the aims was to deliver sustainable opportunities for a global market.

"This science-industry collaboration has the potential to generate a unique industry based on growing global demand for clean, green and healthy nutrients for people and animals," Mr Drummond said.

"These proteins and omega-3 oils are vegan and environmentally friendly. Their production will be safe, and cost effective, with the ability to bring the proven benefits of nutrients like omega-3 oils to many more people."

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for good health, assisting with brain and eye development and cognition, particularly in early childhood, and may help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, neural disorders, arthritis, asthma and skin diseases in humans.

Omega-3 oils are traditionally sourced from wild fish stocks and ocean krill, which are under pressure globally. Minor sources are from nuts and seeds, and oils from flaxseed, soybean and canola.

CSIRO's new technology cultures and extracts omega-3 from specific strains of unique and endemic thraustochytrids, a marine microorganism.

This marine-sourced omega-3 is part of CSIRO’s portfolio of research identifying alternative products to improve human and animal nutrition.

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  • Kim Lee Chang wearing a white lab coat standing next to equipment in a laboratory.

    CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Kim Lee Chang led the multidisciplinary research effort to develop fish-free omega-3 oils.

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  • Microscopic view of Thraustochytrids, a marine microorganism.

    Omega-3 oils are being derived from Thraustochytrids, a marine microorganism, to boost the nutritional value of food and beverages. Image: CSIRO/ Dion Frampton

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