For the last year I have been working with the University of Queensland as the Chief Engineer/Designer/Project Manager on a demonstration scale project to produce microalgae for stock food. Did you know that in Australia, livestock farmers import about 600,000 tonnes of soybean meal as a protein source? This project aims to grow algae to identify if it is a suitable protein replacement. The important factor is that farmers can grow this protein themselves rather than having to rely on imports.

The project began with a sloped paddock.

The starting point - one sloped paddock

The starting point – one sloped paddock

The earthmoving started in late 2012.

Day 3 of Earthmoving

Day 3 of Earthmoving

It took about two weeks to complete the earthmoving. Earthmoving on site for the algae project Once the earthmovers had left then the students involved in the project came on site and assisted with building the ponds.

In the first few weeks everyone made good progress and various parts of the site started to take shape. First stages of construction A few weeks after that, the deep Vee pond that will be used for harvest was well into construction. More basic construction on site

Then I got busy and stopped making videos. We installed a shipping container as a site office, and I installed a solar PV array on it so we had power. We also had a few unwelcome delays.

Site office with power from the sun

Site office with power from the sun

We had some major rain events which caused some small slips and erosion. This slowed things down for a few weeks.

Three days of solid rain - mid construction

Three days of solid rain – mid construction

The base of the site where all stormwater collected

The base of the site where all stormwater collected

But now we have reached a point where the we have a solar array and storage system as our power source, we pipe compressed air out to the ponds, where this is used as the energy input to circulate the pond water. We firstly grow algae in the lab and then bring it onto site to be grown in 150 L bags. These get transferred into a tunnelhouse (greenhouse) that we try and keep as clean as possible to ensure the health of our inoculum. This algae culture will then be transferred into the first of three raceways. These raceways are circulated using an airlift system that I designed and two of our students optimized through various iterations of water depth, type of air sparger, air flow rate and spacing for the airlift upriser. The algae site near completion

We are still finishing the last two ponds and have to put the liner in the Vee pond, but I figured it was time to put up a post of what has been happening in 2012-13. I will do another post with the finished product. Hopefully this won’t be too far away.

Comments are closed.