Green algae

Slime. Goop. Gunk. You may not think that algae are especially valuable. But they can be used to make fuel, nutritional supplements, and many other commercial products.

“Currently companies in the industry are producing plastics, and recyclable foam, and animal feed for cows and chickens and pigs, and aquafeed for shrimp,” Mark Allen says.

Allen is board chair of the Algae Biomass Organization, a trade group promoting the industry. He says financial costs have made it difficult to scale up algae production, but he expects that to change over time.

“One of the most exciting things is the past year, in the 2018 farm bill, algae is now named as a commodity product,” he says.

This means growers are now eligible for crop insurance and other important federal programs.

And growing more of the goopy green stuff could have several benefits. Algae absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. They also grow quickly and need much less land than other crops.

Pumping and stirring algae ponds still requires energy. But if that can be minimized, algae farms could become a more climate-friendly way to produce food, fuel, and other products.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.