This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project plans to refine and test prototype facilities for commercialization of on-farm algae production and harvesting. Algae will be utilized initially for livestock feed and in future for bio-fuel. The project targets an emerging global market for construction of on-farm algae infrastructure. At the consumer level, the market is driven by favorable consumer response to Omega-3 health benefits in meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
The broader impacts of this research are: to increase scientific and technical knowledge of algae production for animal feed; to grow, harvest and utilize algae strains that might otherwise be overlooked; to improve consumer health, especially cardio-vascular health, and reduce obesity; to meet the demand for algae in livestock feed; and to construct algae facilities which will be able to expand into bio-fuel production when oil extraction technologies mature. On-farm algae production conserves energy and protects the environment by using less water, fuel, and fertilizer than land-based farming.
Public Outcomes Report Project Summary: This NSF-SBIR Small Business Innovation Research project refined and tested more efficient ways to grow algae for livestock feed. Distributed production of algae on the farm has been largely ignored by mainstream industry in favor of large-scale centralized facilities. This may not be wise. To sustain worldwide population growth farmers must produce more food at lower cost. The challenge for farming is to use less land, less fuel and water and reducing environmental impacts and climate change as well as manage drought and biosecurity threats. Distributed "on-farm" algae production can help meet these challenges that face agricultural production of tomorrow. From a consumer perspective, nutritionists recognize an emerging shortage of Omega-3. Lack of Omega-3 is implicated in significant long-term public health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimerâ€™s dementia. Intensive livestock feeding with corn, small grain and soybeans has reduced the Omega-3 content formerly expected in livestock products. When fresh algae are introduced into livestock feed, more Omega-3 becomes available in meat, milk, cheese and eggs. Intellectual Merit: This project, On-Farm Algae Production for Livestock Feed addressed a number of algae industry issues by taking a different path. The project focused on the use of modest-sized, modular and scalable units, called Algae-BioCubes™ for growing algae using less space and less water with less energy and lower nutrient cost. On-Farm Algae Production offers farmers an opportunity to provide healthier food at lower costs and to participate in the algae industry. The project has supported the development of self-contained, cost-effective ways to produce algae on-farms, even in northern climates. Broader Impacts: The On-Farm Algae project has strengthened the industry by developing new methods of modular production, using Livestock wastes as nutrient inputs and employing different growing methods. Small scale modular production facilities that cost less to manufacture and operate, occupy less space, and use less water can be installed in diverse, locations wherever nutrient resources are available even in developing countries and in northern climates. The on-farm algae approach aims to mitigate adverse environmental impacts and manage the risks from drought and climate change that increasingly affect agricultural productivity and therefore the cost and dependability of the food supply. Increased Omega-3 in food is known to improve consumer health, especially cardio-vascular health and reduce obesity, diabetes and dementia. Commercial impacts from the project stem from development of a broader-base of production using alternative infrastructure, and aimed at immediately available, otherwise overlooked nutrient supplies and markets. Installed infrastructure can be used for production of human nutrition and biofuels. The project conserves farm tractor fuel and the consumption of fossil- based fertilizer by reducing reliance on feed produced solely from traditional energy-intensive, terrestrial agriculture. Thus the project reduces the carbon footprint and environmental impact of food production while reducing food costs and enhancing the health of consumers.