By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario
Researchers in the Peterborough area have developed several strains of algae that can clean waste water as well as serve as a potential livestock superfood.
Nobletech Inc.’s Noble Purification division is currently piloting its algae-based clean water technology, and Noble Biotech has developed sustainable animal feed that is high in protein and omega fatty acids.
The company is part of the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.
“Our core technology for both of these applications is the algae product itself,” explains Dr. Andressa Lacerda, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Trent’s environmental and life sciences program. “We’re algae farmers, and we grow algae with different purposes.”
The algae can remove nutrients like phosphorous from water and recover them for recycling and reuse.
This application is of particular relevance to the greenhouse industry, which needs very pure water to grow flowers and vegetables as well as dispose of used feedwater from its production.
Noble has also developed a mobile filtration unit that can treat municipal sewage or agricultural run-off on fields to recover phosphorous and nitrogen that would otherwise end up in rivers and lakes.
The algae used in the process can then be used as a fertilizer.
“This technology is beneficial for farmers because their water is cleaner and they can reuse their nutrients, but it also benefits the environment because we are keeping nutrients out of the water,” Lacerda says, adding that the filtration technology is currently deploying its first pilot that will be treating 100,000 litres of water a day.
The algae can also be mixed into animal feed either as a supplement or as the main ingredient, containing many of the nutrients that both carnivorous and herbivorous animals need.
According to Lacerda, their research and the technology they’ve developed to produce the algae make the product very cost-effective, comparable in price to commonly used feed ingredients like fish meal.
They’ve had interest from the animal feed sector and the company is currently scaling up their production facility for the algae itself so that by the end of 2016, they’ll have enough algae to be able to start selling it to feed companies.
“They see the benefits of our technology. The nutritional value of algae is very high and it has all the components livestock need both for health and food quality, yet is doesn’t break the bank,” she adds.
Lacerda credits funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Ontario Centres of Excellent, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, and the local Community Futures fund with supporting their research and commercialization efforts.