Al­gae farm­ing shows bloom­ing prom­ise

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

Grow­ing al­gae could one day be as com­mon as plant­ing grain crops and run­ning live­stock for West Aus­tralian farm­ers.

This is ac­cord­ing to Peren­jori farmer Brian Bax­ter, who 41⁄2 years ago de­cided to ex­plore cul­ti­vat­ing the or­gan­ism as a crop.

Cur­rently run­ning 6000 Merino sheep and leas­ing grain pad­docks on his prop­erty, Mr Bax­ter was in­spired by a de­sire to bring new peo­ple into the lo­cal com­mu­nity and boost busi­ness, and the fact that Peren­jori has an abun­dance of wa­ter, food, aer­a­tion, heat, and sun­shine to grow al­gae.

“If you have one hectare or 10,000sqm, you get 400kg per day of al­gae from that,” he said.

“It has a car­bon-ni­tro­gen ra­tio of seven to one, so we’d have to turn it into pel­lets and then it would be an add-in for an­other type of fer­tiliser, and we think it could fit well with some phos­pho­rus fer­tilis­ers.”

James Cook Univer­sity do­nated some of the genus Toly­potluix, iso­lated from al­gae, which he has grown into a small al­gae crop, af­ter first plac­ing it in two 1000-litre pods of tor­pid wa­ter in Jan­uary.

The al­gae are self-sep­a­rat­ing in the wa­ter, with the fi­nal prod­uct con­tained and stored for sale 15 months af­ter preser­va­tion by air-dry­ing, oven-dry­ing, even freeze-dry­ing.

The Peren­jori Al­gae Farm­ing Project, which was set-up on Mr Bax­ter’s farm in 2014, is based on the use of Toly­potluix over­seas as an in­gre­di­ent for the pro­duc­tion of biofer­tilis­ers, with the pos­si­bil­ity to com­bine metal re­me­di­a­tion from waters and soil amend­ment.

Mr Bax­ter said the al­gae had health ben­e­fits as an ad­di­tion to lamb fod­der. “The nat­u­ral al­gae sup­ple­ment can more than dou­ble the omega-3 lev­els of lamb meat,” he said.

“Feed­ing lambs as lit­tle as 20g of al­gae sup­ple­ment per day for eight weeks boosted omega-3 lev­els in meat 240 per cent com­pared with lambs con­sum­ing a rye­grass-clover hay diet, ac­cord­ing to Vic­to­rian De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries re­search.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are es­sen­tial fats in the hu­man diet, playing an im­por­tant role in growth and brain de­vel­op­ment.”

Mr Bax­ter said he hopes to re­ceive fund­ing to con­struct in­door al­gae ponds with cli­mate con­trol to reg­u­late op­ti­mum con­di­tions.

“Even though we have suc­cess­fully grown some al­gae it is recog­nised that the method has a way to go and we are still work­ing on the best way to go for­ward,” he said.

Kirsten Heimann at James Cook Univer­sity.

Peren­jori farmer Brian Bax­ter takes a sam­ple of cyanobac­te­ria grow­ing in a 1000-litre pod, which ap­pear as small tufts float­ing in tor­pid wa­ter cre­ated by the genus Toly­potluix.

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