Australian farmers are being encouraged to embrace algae crops. Algae are easy to grow. They grow fast, they consume CO2 and they make oil. Marc Gunther, contributing editor of Fortune, a senior writer at GreenBiz.com and a blogger at www.marcgunther.com, asks if algae production will be a future growth business?
Sapphire is building the world’s largest algae farm, designed to make oil in the New Mexico desert, though the commercialization of algal biofuels remains several years away.
“By far the biggest opportunity to reduce the costs of algal fuels lies within the algae. Just as crop scientists have bred corn and wheat to improve yields, with spectacular results, the algae companies are using conventional breeding and genetic modification to develop strains of algae to grow faster, yield more oil, and repel pests,” writes Marc Gunther.
The comments on Marc’s article – about biofuels and longterm food security – are informative:
“Yes. Biofuel from algae is a promising option for alternative energy.
There is biofuel from plants like agave which is a care-free growth plant. Mexico is pioneer in this. Also biogas from opuntia and subsequent power generation. Biogas generators are available from China. These plants can be grown on a massive scale in vacant lands in developing countries.
Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions In a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acidmalate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency. Agave and Opuntia are the best CAM Plants.”
Dr. A. Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India 15 Oct 2012
“I think algae are indeed the way to go, but I disagree on focusing most research on biofuel, as there are more pressing problems at the moment, such as alimentary sovereignty.
In my view, some algae can already be used for feeding both humans and animals.
Human consumption would pose some problems linked to taste and culinary traditions (just as insect consumption does, for instance, in the West). However, substituting corn with algae as an animal feed would free million of tons of cereals now used in the meat industry.
I guess Solazyme approach, focusing on different sectors, will prove a winning one, but using sugars to feed the algae poses serious doubts about its sustainability.”
Olmo Forni 16 Oct 2012
Australian science writer Julian Cribb said recently at an International Rural Network conference:
“We need to double food production worldwide to feed 10 billion people by about the 2060s..
The trouble with that is that everything we need to double food production is running out…”
The essential elements of food production, such as fresh water, available land, fertilisers and stable climates are in decline, but algae could be a way forward.
It could be cultivated in states such as South Australia with sunlight, large areas of flat land and use of salt water.
“People in Australia need to realise that we’ve got the largest resource of sunlight on Earth…
Sunlight grows crops, it grows things like algae…
Each hectare of algae could produce 50-100 barrels of oil…
You could probably grow the whole of South Australia’s liquid fuel requirements..
That is the opportunity of the future, instead of the big oil companies drilling for stuff, it is for farmers to actually grow it.”
‘Suck It Up’ explores the climate crisis, geoengineering and a promising new technology backed by Bill Gates, among others, called direct air capture of carbon dioxide. It explains why we’ve made so little progress (none, actually) in dealing with the climate threat, and how that can change: Part of the answer will be to find ways to capture, recycle and reuse CO2.
Lots of food for thought!