Click here for more information about Algenuity
Click here for more information about Liqofluxphenometrics515R1
Visit cricatalyst.com!Evodos Separation Technology

Research

Producing algae-based biofertilizer from runoff water

January 8, 2018 — by Rachel Zussman, BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Dr. Gardner’s team is currently working to optimize the microalgae for specific crops and environmental conditions.

Minnesota is an agricultural powerhouse that ranks 5th in the nation for total agricultural production. However, this agricultural prosperity may inadvertently threaten the future of the state’s 10,000+ lakes. Agricultural runoff, often high in inorganic nitrogen and phosphorous, can fuel the rapid growth of algae that deplete lakes and streams of oxygen. This process known as eutrophication threatens the structure and function of entire aquatic ecosystems and has been linked to dead zones as far downstream as the Gulf of Mexico.

Robert Gardner, a professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, hopes to capture and recycle the nutrients in runoff water and produce an environmentally friendly microalgae-based biofertilizer. Dr. Gardner’s research, funded in part by a MnDRIVE Environment seed grant, could reduce demand for synthetic fertilizer while boosting farm productivity and sustainability.

Nitrogen and phosphorus, Dr. Gardner points out, are not inherently bad. Plants require both to grow and thrive, but synthetic fertilizers tend to oversaturate crops with nutrients, so the excess seeps into the runoff and eventually into lakes and streams.

The microalgae-based fertilizer proposed by Dr. Gardner eliminates this issue by releasing organic nutrients at a much slower rate. “We are capturing, converting, and recycling the inorganic nitrogen and phosphorous found in runoff water into an organic form,” he says. “Instead of seeping into the runoff, nutrients remain in the field and are released slowly as the algae decompose.”

To simulate a natural rain event and the resulting runoff, Dr. Gardner’s team utilizes a three-story water drop tower housed within the USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab. The water is collected and analyzed for its nitrogen and phosphorous content. The team then cultivates the microalgae using nitrogen and phosphorous found in the runoff and carbon dioxide supplied by the project’s industry partner, Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company. Once harvested, the algae can be applied to crops as a biofertilizer.

Dr. Gardner is currently working to optimize the microalgae for specific crops and environmental conditions. “Similar to crop rotation, we must grow different microalgae strains at different times of the year,” he says.

Different strains may be applied in early spring or midsummer in response to changes in temperature and rain patterns. To make matters more complex, many plants use nitrogen at a faster rate than phosphorous. Even if nitrogen is eliminated from the runoff water, there may still be residual phosphorous. To address this issue, Dr. Gardner is currently exploring the rate at which differing algal strains take up the nutrients to optimize the system for different crops and field conditions.

In the lab, Dr. Gardner’s team is at work characterizing and optimizing algal strains and running simulations to establish best practices for deploying biofertilizers. Though still in the demonstration phase, the research shows promise for future broad-scale application. “Fertilizer is a precious commodity. If we are able to make it more sustainable while also increasing its capability,” he says, “it will help feed our future and save our lakes.”

Located in Benson, Minnesota, the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company (CVEC) is the industrial partner for Gardner’s MnDRIVE project. By participating in the project, the company can recycle excess carbon that would typically go straight into the atmosphere. CVEC will also provide knowledge and structural support necessary to take the project to production scale. “These grand challenges take a team, and the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company is an essential part of our team,” says Dr. Gardner.

More Like This…

HOME A.I.M. Archives

Copyright ©2010-2018 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

twittertopbarlinks_eventstopbarlinks_requesttopbarlinks_archives

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) fortified eggs are developing quite a demand among middle and upper-class consumers in China. With clinical trials demonstrating that EPA can ...
Stavanger, Norway-based Skretting, a 100+ year-old leader in the manufacture and supply of aquaculture feeds for fish and shrimp, has announced that they are now offering...
Forbes is running an interview with Bren Smith, an Ashoka Fellow and the founder of GreenWave, an organization dedicated to restoring oceans, mitigating climate change an...
Discovering which algae species is best suited to make biofuel is no small task. Researchers have tried to evaluate algae in test tubes, but often find lab results don’t ...
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii-based Cellana, Inc., a leading developer of algae-based products for sustainable nutrition and energy applications, and Living Ink Technologies of Den...
Carl Zimmer writes in The New York Times about a team of Australian scientists studying how climate change will alter ecosystems – by using miniature ecosystems, called m...
Algatech has announced the opening of Algatech Inc., a New York City-based subsidiary created to serve the North American market. The company has appointed Ken Seguine to...
Carlsbad-based Surftech, a stand-up paddle (SUP) and Surfboard manufacturing company has announced its collaboration with BLOOM, a materials development company, to devel...
Washington State University researchers have developed a biofilm reactor to grow algae more efficiently, and make the algae more viable for several industries, including ...
The Department of Energy has just announced $22 million in funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for 18 innovative projects as part of the...
UC San Diego students and researchers have produced the world’s first algae-based, renewable flip flops. The first prototypes of their new invention, developed over the s...
Watertechonline.com reports that the All-Gas project in the El Torno treatment plant in Chiclana, in southwestern Spain, in the province of Cádiz, has started its demonst...