Algae Supply Food and Biofuel

Monday, May 8, 2017 - 23:26

Cultivating algae for food and biofuel could make a serious dent in our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as helping to save freshwater resources and reduce deforestation.

According to the Environmental Research Lab, Michael Walsh from Bentley University, US, and colleagues used the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM). They investigated the greenhouse gas emissions, land-use change and water footprint of three different pathways – using algae to produce biofuel, using algae to produce food and using algae to produce a mix of biofuel and food – and compared this to a scenario without algae farming.

"Unlike arable farmland there is a large stock of this low-value land available, with previous studies identifying areas like the coastal region of Texas, US, as being ideal," said Walsh. The model results suggest that large-scale farming of algae to produce both food and biofuel could bring about significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, mostly because of the reduced land demand for food production.

"Algal food holds the potential to open up a significant amount of land to other uses," said Walsh, who published the findings in Environmental Research Letters (ERL). "With that available land, we can more easily deploy negative emissions technologies such as bio-energy carbon capture and storage."

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