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Algal farming - a new Agricultural Revolution?

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Algal farming - a new Agricultural Revolution?
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  Algal farming  – a new Agricultural Revolution? 1 Damir Ibri  š imovi ć April 2010Science agrees that something should be done about globalwarming, but what? 1  If you google "Victor Gorshkov" + "Anastassia Makarieva",you will quickly find a major part of  the answer.New forests! 2  We also need to understand that there is potentially moreserious issue than only CO 2 and other greenhouse gases. Itis heat pollution. Whenever we use energy, we releaseheat. And the energy use is growing exponentially  – all over the planet. The released heat needsvertical air circulation to take vapour (another GHG) into cooler layers of our atmosphere. Thecurrent models indicate that we are here also nearing the breaking point...Obviously, we need plenty of new forests, preferably in coastal areas. But, don ’ t we need a lot of fresh water to grow new forests at planetary scales? Yes, we need a lot of water  – but not freshwater. We can do a lot with seawater  – and we have a lot of it. Of course, we cannot water treeseedlings with seawater. We need something in between...The dilemma disappears as soon we turn our attention to the humble seawater algae. They are notonly a potential source of biofuels. Algae are at the base of the marine food web and can also beused for human consumption or as animal fodder. And whatever we do not use can easily beconverted into very good fertiliser. Growing algae on barren land may indeed offer a newagricultural revolution and Australia could be at its forefront, earning a good deal from carboncredits.The world (and academia) seems blinded by its desire for high-tech solutions. We are better off adopting here large volume, low-tech solutions which any farmer can understand and implement. 3 If they grew algae for fuel, food, feed and fertiliser production farmers could become less dependenton fossil fuels, expensive fertilisers and dwindling fresh water sources. Farmers could also grow fishwith the algae on barren land while continuing to grow food crops on fertile parts of their property. Australia’s salinity issue co uld also be addressed by providing salt water drainages and enablingtargeted afforestation.Unlike in the open sea, we have some control over what we grow in basins or ponds on barren land.This is the basis of my Greening Method. As we grow the algae in saltwater ponds, the water willevaporate and this may offset soil humidity loss on nearby land sufficiently to enable vegetationgrowth. We can also use the grown algae to improve soil fertility and quality. Some fleshy specieswill also contain a large percentage of fresh water. And, once vegetation takes hold, we are ready togrow a new agroforestry mix... 1 The gist of this paper was first published at Science Alert two years ago. It was widely reproduced and translated in Spanish and Portuguese. However, habitual thinking, practices and academics ’ formalism  – allconspired for the idea to fall on deaf ears. 2 If you think that proper terminology is alien to me, here it is: reforestation, afforestation and agroforestry. 3 Some of the proposals are so high tech that just maintenance of the “ solution ” , space mirrors for example,would require millions of highly skilled workforce. If you translate this into $ per year, what you read now costspeanuts in comparison.  Algal farming  – a new Agricultural Revolution? 2 Damir Ibri  š imovi ć April 2010As we grow a new coastal forest, we could monitor changes in the microclimate and induced verticalair circulation. This will give us a good idea for the next. Transportable infrastructure could be movedthere then. According to my conservative estimates we could have enough coastal forests inAustralia within a century; to drive rain towards continental interior.The initial costing for the infrastructure is low  – cca $650,000.00 (AU) per 10 hectares 4    – areasonable forest size. However, it should be noted that the most of the infrastructure istransportable. This will further reduce the cost. With carbon trading and government ’ s support costscould shrink to nil. 5 Our farmers were quite inventive in the past and they are likely to continue inthe future. Algal farming experiences may also become valuable export products earning even morecarbon credits. 6 With new farmlands in the mix, we could also address another planetary issue  –  constant raise in population levels.To this, I can only add a fact that also fell on deaf ears: Forty thousand years ago, Australian interiorwas lush with rainforests in the middle. Megabeasts were roaming and there was a plenty of rainand vegetation to sustain them. But, in a very short period all that turned into dust. Whathappened?  – Ancestors of our absrcines happened. And then we moved in and added our bit to thedestruction in mere two centuries...Well  – my dear colleagues  – the idea is now in your hand. Put it under your microscopes and otherequipment you might have and I  – do not have. A couple of farmers are already experimenting. 7 Allthey needed were bodies of few old boats, seawater with algae within them and few standard (andcheap) pieces of weather station equipment to measure precipitation, temperatures and humidity.And all of this is in their backyard for the last fourteen months + records... 4 Costing of potentially expensive coastal pumps is not included. However, they could last for a century... 5 See Environmental Farmers Network ’ s “ Submission to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,Parliament of Victoria ” . My proposal is not directly reflected in their formal submission. However, it wasattached as supporting document. 6 Hawaiian culture has already identified algal species suitable for human consumption or stock feed. 7 Actually, there could be more, but only two approached me for advice. At the moment, they seem to be a bitsecretive  – you know, intellectual property issues... And in Tasmania, at least one farmer is harvesting seaweed(from the sea) for her sheep.
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