The Algi Story

Cofounders of Algi standing on a frozen lake in front of a mountain in The Canadian Rockies in Banff Canmore Alberta Canada in the winter.

Hello! And welcome to the Algi blog!

Algi was founded by two students with a shared passion for food and sustainability. Dissatisfied with the lack of delicious, nutrient-rich, and clean plant-based options available on the market, Alessandra and Devon decided to make something different. Using algae, they have created new and innovative products that make it easy to eat sustainably. But why algae? And where did they get this idea? Let’s go back to the beginning.

The Beginning

From a young age, Alessandra and Devon both grew up heavily involved in competitive sports. Alessandra was a competitive figure skater, and Devon a downhill skier. They loved to be active, be competitive, and to win. To support their intense training, nutrition was a key aspect of their life. They needed to make sure they were getting enough nutrients to perform their best AND, since they were still kids, they needed to make sure what they were eating would support their growth and development.

Even as they got older and stopped competing, eating, and eating well, was still important to support Alessandra and Devon’s active lifestyles. With this focus on clean and healthy eating, they were introduced to new foods to incorporate into their diet. They also gained an appreciation for new and creative foods- dishes that would excite their taste buds.

Image of cofounder of Algi, Alessandra Amato, figure skating in an ice rink wearing a pink dress. Her leg is up above her head, held in place by her hand as she glides across the surface of the ice.

Alessandra’s Story

While in university, Alessandra started learning more about the climate crisis and started to research how she could be more sustainable in her everyday actions. It was in this research that she became aware of the shocking environmental impact of the food and agriculture industry. She learned that one of the easiest ways to become more sustainable on an individual level was to reduce the amount of meat and animal products she consumed. Alessandra started by simply removing meat from her diet and limiting her consumption of foods like cheese and eggs. She also decided to check out the meat alternative section at the local grocery store.

Plot twist: Alessandra is anemic and allergic to soy. There were no meat alternatives she could eat at the local grocery store. And as a student with limited time and a lazy cook, she didn’t experiment too much with different plant-based recipes. As you might be able to guess, because of her anemia, her iron levels dropped so low she couldn’t get out of bed some days. She was unable to go to class, get her work done, and was sent home more than once because she was too exhausted to do anything. As a result, Alessandra would end up making herself a dish with meat just to get through her day. When she felt better, she’d cut out the meat again, and the vicious cycle would begin again…

Cofounder Devon Hawkins is downhill ski racing down a hill in a mountain in Banff Alberta Canada. He is wearing a dark ski suit and skiing through a gate as he races down the hill

Devon’s Story

Around the age of 17, Devon, still a high-level ski racer, decided to take his health into his own hands. He was wildly anemic, and despite eating a traditional diet heavy in meat, it wasn’t helping. He started seeing a nutritionist who, despite not being a plant-based man himself, started recommending plant sources for Devon to try since the traditional options weren’t working. Devon started eating what we would now call a raw, “flexitarian” diet, with lots of fruits and nuts. After a few weeks, he felt so much better, his iron levels were back within normal ranges, and because of this, his performance improved.

A few years later, as a university student, Devon became unhealthy again. With a busy schedule that results in infrequent eating,  Devon felt his overall health and well-being decline again. In his third year of University, he tried going pescatarian  However he didn’t do enough research and didn’t know how he should be eating, so he could not maintain the diet for more than a few months. After more months of a traditional diet and suboptimal health in his fourth year of school, he decided to focus on his health once again. Devon had heard many positive things about vegan diets; the environmental and health benefits and the improvements in athletic performance and overall fitness. Never one to say no to a challenge, he did the research and started out on a vegan diet. Two and a half years later, and he’s still a proud vegan! 

The Start of Something New

Devon and Alessandra both met at Queen’s University in the summer following their fourth year of school. Alessandra had just finished her BSc in Kinesiology, and Devon had completed his BComm degree. Alessandra had accepted an offer to start her Master’s degree at McGill University in the Fall, and Devon was finishing up the requirements for his dual degree in Global Development.

Queen’s University offered a summer innovation program that Alessandra and Devon were eager to participate in. Alessandra had nothing else planned for the summer and wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship. Meanwhile Devon, uninspired at the prospect of a corporate job from his commerce degree decided to see if entrepreneurship and the startup world was a better fit for him. 

As part of this program, Alessandra and Devon choose to find a problem that resonated with them and then they would build a business from the ground up to solve this problem. Bonded over their shared passion for food and sustainability, solving the problem of sustainable food seemed like an obvious choice. In their research, they stumbled across this CNN and Forbes article that talked about algae as the food of the future. Interested, they started reading more about algae, the different types, and all the amazing environmental, health, and nutrition benefits. 

Beyond a business idea, Alessandra and Devon wanted to get their hands on some algae-based products and see how they tasted. Algae seemed like the perfect solution to Alessandra’s protein and iron problem and to Devon’s desire for more diverse plant based foods. But when they started looking up what types of products were available, they couldn’t find ANYTHING. The only options available were spirulina or chlorella powders or pills. Despite CNN stating this was the food of the future, they couldn’t find anyone actually creating food with algae. That was the A-HA! moment. “What if WE were the ones who started making food with algae? Where would we even start? What does algae even taste like?”

So their research began, and it was quickly decided that spirulina algae was the algae they should start experimenting with. It had so many amazing benefits that the choice was obvious. The first idea was to make ramen noodles. Alessandra and Devon thought: “We’re starving students with no time. What do students with no time eat? Ramen noodles! What if we made the ramen noodles healthy by adding spirulina and kept their convenience?” So off they went to Devon’s kitchen to learn how to make ramen. 
Blue-green bowl of delicious spirulina algae ramen noodles make with vegetable broth, oyster mushrooms, and tofu, topped with sesame seeds and green onions. Placed on top of the blue-green bowl is a pair of chopsticks resting together.

While they were able to successfully make the noodles and try them right away, with no food science background, they couldn’t figure out how to bring it to other people to see what they thought. They needed to get as many people to try it as possible to see if this was even a good idea. So they started making food they could easily share like hummus, nacho chips, cookies, and juice. They brought it to their friends and they loved it! So they decided to get some unbiased opinions and got a table at a local farmers market. 

Most people came up to the table and were curious about what this dark green food was. After explaining what spirulina was, why it was good for them, and why it was good for the planet, they would hesitantly take a bite and be shocked at how delicious it was! Alessandra and Devon even kept a pouch of the spirulina powder with them to show customers the distinct and earthiness of the powder to compare them to the delicious foods they had created. People were very impressed, loved the idea, loved the products, and loved the mission. However, when Alessandra and Devon explained that they wanted to create ramen noodles, people were a little hesitant to commit to an entire spirulina algae meal. They said they wanted something easier to consume and lower commitment, to get used to eating algae before they would eat an algae meal. And so, the IMPACT Bar was born.

A photo collage showing the spirulina algae based food products brought to the local farmers market. From left to right: spirulina algae nacho tortilla chips, spirulina algae hummus, spirulina algae shortbread cookies, and spirulina algae bread

Algi Today

Despite still being in school, Alessandra and Devon continued to work on Algi, testing out different iterations of the IMPACT Bar and learning how to start a food business. After receiving so much positive feedback from consumers, food experts, and industry leaders, they knew they had a winning idea.

Algi’s vision is to create an expansive line of food products centred around algae that make it easy for consumers to eat sustainably. At Algi, we want to shift the way consumers think about getting a balanced diet. We want a space carved out on the Canada Food Guide for algae. We want Algi to become synonymous with algae-based food products. And we want all our products to not only taste great but also make an IMPACT on our community and the planet.

We hope you will join us on our journey to truly make algae the food of the future.

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