Saline agriculture could become a vital resource for food and fuel.
By Hazel Henderson
Water is vital for agriculture, energy production and thousands of industrial processes worldwide. Floods and droughts now affect Asia, Latin America, Europe and California. While these specific events can’t be linked directly to climate change, they are increasingly entering debates about climate across mainstream media.
Our Q2 2014 Green Transition Scoreboard® Report: “Plenty of Water!” will focus on water and cover investments in water management and conservation.
Saline Agriculture Holds Promise for Biofuels
Most of the world’s attention is focused on supply, conservation, pollution and recycling the 3 percent of fresh water on our planet. Yet, 97 percent of the water on Earth is saline! Our oceans, salty lakes and brackish wetlands have been ignored in most policy and public debates.
I have long followed unnoticed research on the 10,000 salt-loving halophyte plants, which can grow in deserts and thrive on seawater – now at last coming to light. We report frequently on research of saline agriculture, noting that halophyte plants can provide humans with food, fiber, edible oils and biofuels. Indeed, the only biofuels that meet our Green Transition Scoreboard criteria are those based on algae grown on seawater.
Too many biofuels produced so far are unsustainable, the worst being ethanol from corn, still subsidized by Congressional mandate. The New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) found that financial speculation and biofuel subsidies contribute to rising food prices and consumer revolts.
While many early biofuels start-ups in the U.S. have failed, new companies with new methods and feedstocks have emerged. Some are using genetically engineered organisms and enzymes; others have gone public or linked up with old oil company giants. Most still overlook the most abundant resources available for producing biofuels as well as edible oils, food and fiber for humans: desert lands, sunlight and seawater!
Companies in Saline Agriculture Space
We at Ethical Markets are fortunate to have top scientists in seawater and sustainable agriculture on our Advisory Board, including Dr. Mae-wan Ho of ISIS in Britain; Dr. Allan Savory and the Savory Institute, restoring degraded rangelands; Dr. Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, restoring perennial prairie grasses in Kansas; Gunter Pauli of Zeri in Tokyo; and Janine Benyus of our partner company Biomimicry 3.8 with whom we’ve co-developed our Principles of Ethical Biomimicry Finance™. Presenters at our Finding Ethical Alpha research conference include Dr. Dennis Bushnell, NASA Chief Scientist, also an expert on seawater agriculture, Dr. Carl Hodges of the Seawater Foundation and others.
I asked them all to comment on the recent report from AltEnergyStocks' Jim Lane titled “10 Hottest Trends in Algae,” which lists:
- India’s Reliance Industrial Investments in Algae.Tec, Algenol and Aurora Algae, while noting Sapphire Energy’s joint development agreement with Philips 66 and Synthetic Genomics’ agreement with ExxonMobil.
- Solazyme fermentation process is hooked up with Archer-Daniels-Midland to produce a variety of biofuels products.
- Heliae sells licenses to its production technology to generate fuels, chemicals, nutraceuticals, proteins and enzymes for use in agriculture, retail and other markets.
- French firm Sofiproteol teamed up with Fermentalg to produce nutraceuticals including Omega-3 oils.
- In the U.S., Kentucky-based Martek Bioscience, now owned by Alltech, is also producing nutraceuticals and 1800 tons of algae per year.
- Aurora Algae’s commercial-scale plant in Australia grows an optimized strain of saltwater algae. This deep, well researched report includes how algae is used for scrubbing toxics out of wastewater, to utilize CO2 and is highly recommended.
Fuel from Seaweed
Highlights from NASA’s Dr. Dennis Bushnell’s response: “converting biomass into fuels is not the major issue; the major issue is raw capacity and interference with effects on arable land, fresh water, food, fodder, etc. Cyanobacteria and halophytes solve these concerns affordably and quickly.”
Meanwhile, the huge promise of seawater agriculture for making Earth’s advancing desert regions productive with abundant seawater is still overlooked, including MASDAR’s successful work with Boeing on biofuel for aviation from halophyte plants grown on seawater. Norway is harvesting kelp from its coastal waters and such work is underway in Middle East countries, China, Australia, Mexico and the U.S.
Time to look at abundant seawater and desert lands along with free photons from our sun for new sources of knowledge-rich green prosperity.
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