Giant sea farms that are able to produce power, food and much more could help to solve energy problems and utilise a natural resource that remains largely untapped.
Researchers in Sweden have created the first farm at sea to grow algae, which can be used for everything from biogas to fish food.
It’s predicted in years to come that algae farms at sea could create a brand new industry for people to work in, as well as helping the environment and creating more resources for us to use.
The simple but versatile plants, which can vastly differ in size, are increasingly being used technological applications. These include lighting and powering houses and cars.
Members from KTH The Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, will grow kelp around the shores of the country. This will be done on drums and ropes that can be lowered further into the sea at cold times to protect the plants from frost damage.
“It will be an energy forest at sea. We plan to build large farms on 2 hectares right from the start, since the interest in the activities will grow rapidly when more farmers and entrepreneurs wake up to the opportunities and come into the picture,” said Fredrik Gröndahl who is working on the project.
“In 15 years time, we will have many large algae cultivations along our coasts; and Seafarm will have contributed to the creation of a new industry from which people can make a living.”
“The fact is that algae can absorb nitrogen from the water as effectively as a wastewater treatment plant,” says Gröndahl.
He believes that we need to try and create new sources of algae rather than trying to collect it off the sea bed of, for example, the Baltic sea.
He said: “We’re counting on Seafarm’s cultivation of algae being able to favour the marine environment as a whole, since they form secondary reefs in free bodies of water. This sort of reef attracts fish and other animal species.
“We really need new solutions, such as harvesting the excess algae for fuel and cultivating new, pure algae for special products and foodstuffs.”
“What’s more, we’re also acting to help the environment. Partly, when we make use of the excess algae which otherwise contribute to the excess fertilisation of water bodies and partly when we cultivate algae that actually absorb nitrogen and phosphorus from the sea.”
Farming algae at sea is ideal, Gröndahl says, as it can be grown all year round and only needs a regular light source to do so.
It takes approximately six months of growth before the algae can be farmed and taken to land.
From there on it is possible for it to be used to create biofuels and any other applications.