In­dus­try works on al­gae ‘su­per­food’

Pilbara News - - News - Peter de Krui­jff

An al­gae su­per­food could be the shot in the arm for an in­dus­try that has yet to plant a solid foothold in the Pil­bara.

The al­gae in­dus­try has had a mixed history and its most re­cent prospects were tied in with hopes of di­ver­si­fy­ing the re­gion’s econ­omy through the energy sec­tor.

Things like so­lar energy are in their in­fancy in the Pil­bara, which is known for its high fre­quency of sunny, cloud­less days, and only a hand­ful of projects like the fledg­ling Kar­ratha Air­port so­lar ar­ray have been un­der­taken.

How­ever, for a brief mo­ment start­ing in 2011, it looked as though an al­gae based bio-diesel could be pro­duced in Kar­ratha.

Pre­vi­ously, the site had been used by the group Aqua-Carotene, which was look­ing into al­gae prod­ucts as a whole­food or medicine un­til Amer­i­can com­pany Aurora Al­gae ven­tured into the re­gion with its bio-diesel pi­lot plant.

De­spite vis­its from the WA premier and the prom­ise of $10 mil­lion in State fund­ing to­wards a com­mon user pipeline to help the scheme, Aurora left Aus­tralia last year af­ter ditch­ing the Kar­ratha plant and a pro­ject on the mid­coast of WA.

Last month an auc­tion was held at Aurora Al­gae’s head­quar­ters in Hayward, Cal­i­for­nia, where gym and lab equip­ment, as well as 40 tonnes of biomass were sold off.

Back in Aus­tralia, Ian Trac­ton, the founder of nat­u­ral medicine com­pany In­terClin­i­cal Lab­o­ra­to­ries, which mar­kets prod­ucts di­rectly to health prac­ti­tion­ers, has taken over the site and started new com­pany Plank­ton Farms.

His vi­sion is to prop­a­gate a type of mi­croal­gae or phy­to­plank­ton called Dunaliella salina, which grows nat­u­rally in Aus­tralian salt lakes, giv­ing it a red tinge. Mr Trac­ton pre­vi­ously did busi­ness with Aqua-Carotene and has long been fas­ci­nated by the prospects of Dunaliella salina.

“I would ar­gue that Dunaliella salina is the su­per foods of su­per foods,” he said.

“It’s the rich­est sort of beta carotene.”

Beta carotene is what makes pump­kins and car­rots or­ange, and is a pre­cur­sor to vi­ta­min A. Mr Trac­ton said the prod­uct could have ben­e­fits for Aus­tralians and nu­tri­ent-de­fi­cient peo­ple.

Plank­ton Farms is us­ing sev­eral diesel gen­er­a­tors at its oper­a­tions, but hopes to tap into the City of Kar­ratha’s wa­ter and power sup­ply.

It also needs to re­place its ex­ist­ing pumps from the Aurora Al­gae oper­a­tions with pad­dle­wheels so as not to dis­turb the Dunaliella salina too much.

Kar­ratha and Dis­tricts Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive John Lally said it was good to see new small to medium busi­nesses start­ing up.

“As the econ­omy changes it needs to di­ver­sify,” he said.

The Bar­nett Gov­ern­ment re­cently an­nounced aqua­cul­ture as an in­dus­try that was “strate­gi­cally im­por­tant”.

Pil­bara De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Terry Hill said the com­mis­sion wel­comed the State’s recog­ni­tion of aqua­cul­ture.

“The Pil­bara is well-placed to take ad­van­tage of this emerg­ing in­dus­try with nu­mer­ous po­ten­tial coastal and in­land green­field sites with ac­cess to salt and fresh­wa­ter, ideal cli­matic con­di­tions and ex­ist­ing ex­port and freight in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

“Nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist for a range of aqua­cul­ture oper­a­tions in the Pil­bara, in­clud­ing al­gae, fish, prawns and oys­ters.

“The com­mis­sion is ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in part­ner­ship with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries to iden­tify and de­velop aqua­cul­ture sites in the re­gion.”

Pic­ture: Mar­garet Bertling

Aurora Al­gae’s pi­lot plant has been taken over by Plank­ton Farms and the green ponds could soon re­sem­ble the dirt sur­round­ing them as the com­pany looks to pro­duce a red-coloured al­gae.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.