Pond Scum

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 9:02 PM

Algae...Pond scum...  Could this be the next truly sustainable low cost source of protein?  In the 80s and 90s there were programs funded by the U.S. government to research the potential for algae to be used as a bio-fuel but unfortunately it was determined that algae based bio-fuels could not compete against fossil fuels as low cost.  With the rise of oil prices in recent years though there has been a push for alternative fuels.  Unfortunately algae strictly as a bio-fuel still might not be cost competitive with fossil fuels.  Because of this there have been pushes by companies to find other marketable uses for algae.  Surprise – it has a very promising potential not only as a fuel source but also as food for both humans and animals!  Algae are capable of being cultivated in all kinds of ponds, and require only sunlight and seawater to grow.  As a grown protein source, it is approximately 30 times more productive than soy and 50 times more productive than corn but can be grown on as little as 1 percent fresh water.  Another huge advantage to algae is that it has surprisingly much higher protein content.  Besides being used as an outright protein source for humans, using algae derived feed as a substitute for corn or soybean based livestock feed has the added value of not only being cheaper, but also being able to free up the crop land that was previously being used to produce corn or soy for livestock feed.  This in turn allows that reclaimed land to be used for crops intended to feed humans instead of animals.  So the advantages of growing algae are:  potentially cheaper source of fuel, cheaper source of protein for humans, cheaper source of protein for livestock, takes fewer resources to grow.  The disadvantages of growing algae are that unfortunately the true costs are unknown because this is still uncharted territory.  Additional funding is still needed for research, but the potential is there.
Algae – The Next Source Of Protein?
Image courtesy of http://www.care2.com/

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