A new method of growing microalgae for animal feed has been trialled in Iceland’s Hellisheidi geothermal park.
This method uses LED light, briny water, and CO2 concentrated air as an alternative to land-based cultivation for animal feeds such as soy. The concentrations of these are controlled by photo-bioreactors.
These photo-bioreactors grow microorganisms that recycle carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen, making a closed-loop process that is much more efficient than traditional agriculture.
This process can provide nutritional content that mimics soybeans at less than 0.6% of the land and water use.
The method has the potential to prevent further deforestation of rainforests, the second biggest cause of global warming. This could allow deforested areas to be rewilded and contribute to drawing down CO2.
Additionally, claims of higher efficiency and lower risk of crop loss provide a solution to food and water scarcity that we face with a growing population.
There could also be widespread health benefits: by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides, there is potential to lower related illnesses such as respiratory problems and cancer.
In terms of animal health, changing the diet of animals may have unintended consequences. Although the micro-algae has similar nutritional value to soy, the effects on long-term health are still unknown.
The shift from traditional farming to a new technical method could lead to job loss, while new opportunities could also be created. How can technical training be provided for future jobs in the industry?