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Algae in the desert forest

Algae i Qatar.

Algae i Qatar.

An unexpected algal resident that turned up in a forest project in the Quatar, could become an important step to large-scale algae cultivation of the world.

The algae has high tolerance to heat and salt and is a fast grower that could be suitable for marine food production.

The exciting algae strain, discovered last summer, is now being analyzed at Duke University by Professor Zackary Johnson as part of a U.S. Department of Energy collaboration to develop algae production for biofuels and animal feeds.

Large scale
If this analysis shows that, in addition to having high tolerance to heat and salt, the algae are fast growers suitable for biofuel production, the strain could open new regions of the world to large-scale algae cultivation.
-The careful research that will give us a full understanding of the strain and its potential is just beginning, and we look forward to learning more in the coming year”, says Virginia L. Corless, Science & Development Manager of The Sahara Forest Project.
The Sahara Forest Project aims at establishing vegetation in arid areas and reverse the trend of desertification. The Sahara Forest Project is a pilot facility in Qatar in partnership between Yara International ASA, Qatar Fertilizer Company (Qafco) and The Sahara Forest Project. The project uses solar thermal energy technology to create cooling and distilate fresh water through the evaporation of saltwater.

Promising
The Sahara Forest Project’s aim is to restiore vegetation in arid areas and reverse the trend of desertification. Marine microalgae grow prolifically in the world’s oceans and seas. Their ability to grow very quickly without using any freshwater, make them a promising candidate for next generation biofuels. It could replace fossil fuels for planes, ships, trucks, and cars on large scales without competing with global food production.
Algae cultivation is a part of the Sahara Forest Project’s saltwater infrastructure, and three specially-built ponds were put in service at the pilot to cultivate species already identified as having promise for commercialization.

Unique synergies
The serendipitous algae discovery at the Sahara Forest Project’s pilot facility in Qatar is a prime example of the innovation that arises from bringing together systems and scientists from different disciplines.  Without the presence of scientists with expertise in algae, the bloom would not have been taken note of.  The algae might not have been collected for analysis and without the requirements of the Sahara Forest Project’s greenhouses and solar desalination systems for saltwater-based cooling, the salt ponds would never have been built at the facility.

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A blue revolution in the making

A pilot plant for industrial production of microalgae will give strengthened and focused research on microalgae as marine resource for the future, and will help developing a knowledge platform on upscale systems to support  bioindustries.

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