What the cluck? Wastewater algae can feed animals

Photo by Hana Oliver on Unsplash

A US$2.5 million project has been launched that uses carbon dioxide combined with nutrients from wastewater treatment plants to cultivate algae for animal fodder.

The project, by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), is co-funded by the US Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory. It aims to show that producing algae for animal feeds can be cost-effective and environmentally beneficial.

The algae cultivation system will be integrated with the City Water, Light & Power plant in Springfield, Illinois.

"Using wastewater is a cost-saving in the production process and it helps to solve problems that wastewater treatment plants are experiencing in trying to minimise nutrient discharges in the environment."

Dr Lance Schideman, ISTC principal investigator

This approach reduces pollution and replaces the costly CO2 and nutrient inputs used in most algae cultivation systems. The wastewater, which is full of organic nutrients that support algae growth, will come from a local treatment plant.

“Using wastewater is a cost saving in the production process and it helps to solve problems that wastewater treatment plants are experiencing in trying to minimise nutrient discharges in the environment,” said Dr Lance Schideman, ISTC principal investigator. “In Illinois, the treatment plants are under increasing scrutiny, and regulations that are now voluntary are expected to become more stringent and potentially mandatory within the next decade.”

Ultimately, the system will produce feed especially for cattle and chickens. The product will be dry, which helps reduce spoilage, and will have a high nutritional value compared with some other feeds.

It may seem strange but there are a number of advantages to using algae as animal feed. From an environmental perspective, algae is fast-growing compared with traditional feed crops and requires less land to grow.

In addition, algae are rich in many different minerals that most animals require for their basic bodily functions, including phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Algae for animal feed can help to improve an animal’s intestinal health. It also activates the immune system.