This week on future farming, we look at the increasing use of algae as fertiliser in Australia.
Fertiliser, especially those chemically produced, can be an expensive buy for any farmer.
But one farmer in Australia may have solved this problem for good, by using algae as a fertiliser substitute. The West Australian sheep and grain farmer, Mr. Brian Baxter, began by adding the monocultured algae to his land as fertiliser recently, as reported by acb.net.au.
Four years ago he received the idea, after watching a tv story on algae production. This encouraged him to try something similar. Brian now has the support of the local Perenjori Shire Council as well as a local mining company.
Brian then set on his way to learn more about the process behind growing the crop, before putting his plans in motion. He now grows algae and the strain used can yield up to 40 grams per square metre per day, during the high temperatures of the Australian summer.
"It's an easy one to grow and obviously fertiliser is very important to what we do.", said the farmer.
What Brian says:
Baxter hopes to diversify the community, while developing the local area into a viable working community.
"One of the main reasons is to diversify the community and get new people into the community, new business, so we can develop our community into a very viable, energetic place to live," he said.
To grow successfully the algae needs water, food, aeration, heat and sunshine, which makes growing it in the region of Perenjori particularly easy.
"If you have one hectare, or 10,000 square metres, you get 400kg per day of algae from that.", said Brian.
Mr Baxter is as of yet unaware of the potential worth of the industry, but says the traditional farmer can see the value in using the crop for fertiliser.
"It has a carbon-nitrogen ratio of seven to one, we'd have to turn it into pellets and then it would be an add-in for another type of fertiliser...It obviously has good water holding capacity, it can sit there for a long time dry and then you get some rain and up she comes again.” he stated.
Before adding, "We think it could fit really well with some phosphorus fertilisers.”
Baxter says that some algae is worth up to thousands of dollars per tonne, with some gaining prices of over $70,000 per tonne. This though is dependent on the type of algae.
"There are some types of algae that are worth thousands and thousands of dollars a tonne, up in the $60,000 or $70,000 a tonne for particular types of algae...But this particular type, I have no idea at this stage of the game if it is rather unique. We'll just have to see how much we can produce.", he added.
Could this be another future in the farming world? Will we see algae growing becoming a trend across the country? One things certain, this idea could save farmers a lot of much needed cash. Could this be the new alternative to chemical fertilisers?
Not only would this idea have financial rewards, but it would also help conserve our wildlife and protect them from further pollution.