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Algae Boost Cattle Nutrition

The University of Queensland has established an algae energy farm to cultivate and harvest microalgae for a range of uses, including as a protein-rich and sustainable feed supplement for beef cattle.

Prof Peer Schenk said the off-grid 250,000-litre demonstration farm in Pinjarra Hills showed that algae could be grown easily in Australian conditions to leverage feed and fuel without competing for arable land needed for food production. “We are working closely with Australian primary producers to produce protein-rich feed to meet the nutritional needs of cattle and other livestock,” Schenk said.

Such a feed source would help mitigate large seasonal variations in the nutritional value of pasture and boost cattle growth.

Schenk said the fact that pasture in northern Australia during the dry season was typically low in protein and energy acted as a constraint on beef production. “Microalgae would help with management of prolonged dry conditions, such as those affecting much of Queensland,” he said.

“The challenge is to develop technology that can be readily and cost-effectively applied on beef properties as a ‘home-grown’ source of high-quality protein feed.”

The technology on the energy farm can use virtually any type of water, which means that microalgae cultivation offers a cost-effective way of producing feed and fuel year-round with minimal use of land and water.

The farm can produce about 50 tonnes of algal biomass and about 12,500 litres of biodiesel per hectare each year.

Xstrata provided UQ with mining industry flotation technology for a 9-month trial that significantly increased algae production.