BBC Future

60 Second Idea

Implant humans with algae so we can 'eat the sun'

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week deep sea biologist Chuck Fisher has a colourful idea to tackle world hunger.

“My idea is based on the animals I study but originally occurred to me as a graduate student many years ago studying corals.

I must admit that there are more than a few details that need to be worked out, so it is a dream for the future.

First of all a little background: the corals on a coral reef are actually a symbiotic combination of photosynthetic algae living inside of the coral animal and as a result, these animals only have a limited need to feed. They get most of their nutrition directly from sunlight, just like a green plant. So my idea is to implant tiny unicellular photosynthetic algae under the skin of humans.

Of course this would result in an even more wonderfully colourful human race than what we have now. But more importantly, these tiny symbiotes would create most of the food we need directly to humans and could help feed starving masses all over the world.

And since humans are warm-blooded, we could be growing our own food under our own skin even in winter, providing the sun was shining.”

You can listen to Chuck discuss his idea with Australian writer ML Stedman and German conductor Alexander Liebreich in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

If you have a 60-second idea or would like to comment on this story, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.