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7 Days from Seed to Harvest: Cellana, and the Rise of Algae in a World Seeking More, Faster, Better

Submitted by on September 13, 2017 – 11:28 amNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  … Let’s look at the hard data — let’s see what is critically different about algae, compared to other staple crop agriculture we known and understand. in this case, the Cellana Demonstration Farm … which has been operating in Kona, Hawaii for several years and is ready for commercial-scale deployment.

In the example of Cellana, the crop is seeded (it’s called inoculating the pond) on Day 1, and by Day 7 we have reached harvest. The harvest is done overnight, and the next crop is seeded and ready to go in the morning. Processing proceeds at the same pace. It’s 52 harvests.

Converting Cellana’s scientific data into bushels (56 pounds in a bushel) for comparison, you can produce, annually, 1184 bushels per acre in an commercial algae system.

Product diversification is the means to escape the commodity price rollercoaster — ideally, you would like something besides a pioneer product and one bulk product sold into one bulk market. At the Cellana Demonstration Farm, that second product is a biofuel made from the non-EPA algae oil. While algae biofuels are not exactly in vogue at the moment, they make sense as that third anchor product from a farm. Growers of corn and soybeans work the same way — they serve fuel and feed markets and have high-end pioneer products ranging from corn oil to a range of materials made from corn sugars.

What we see here at the Cellana Farm is a system using a salt-water algae, nannochloropsis. The water in the ponds is filtered to prevent accumulation of algae’s predators — the water use to cool the sunlight-laden closed photobioreactors used to seed the ponds — that’s pure cold Pacific seawater. The use of seawater generally restricts a Cellana system to a coastal area — and it’s too cold for places like Canada.

One limitation on algae cultivation for potential growers has been the sourcing of CO2 to accelerate algae growth. Merchant VO2 is expensive to buy and transport – more useful for pilots and demonstrations. Flue gas from, say, coal-fired power plants — well, an algae farm would have to be truly gigantic to offtake all that gas, and you have to transport it (pipe or otherwise) and that adds costs and limit the geography.

The Cellana system we see has a different path and one that is very interesting to those who note that remote non-arable land almost never has a CO2 source, or power. You can use renewable diesel (or biodiesel) to generate power for the farm — and pleasingly, the exhaust gas can be used as a substitute for other CO2 sources with no difference in productivity seen in comparative studies. Optionally, the farm can make it’s own biodiesel from the non-EPA algae oils that are extracted.

So, a self-contained system, with a built-in carbon capture and use.   READ MORE

 

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