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Algae farming in Goondiwindi goes from strength to strength

Water, sunlight, and clean air – did you know Goondiwindi has the perfect environment for growing ocean microalgae? This week MDBA Chair Sir Angus Houston visited Goondiwindi's Algae Pharm as part of his listening tour and learnt how the algae farm captures and recycles water.
Published: 16 March 2022

It’s over 400 km from the ocean, but in the cooler months, Goondiwindi’s Algae Pharm produces one crop of ocean algae every 24 hours. MDBA Chair, Sir Angus Houston took the opportunity to visit as part of his southern and south-west Queensland listening tour this week.

Photo of two men standing alongside each other, discussing algae farming
Algae Pharm manager Steve Strutt and MDBA Chair Sir Angus Houston.

Microalgae is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, traditionally sourced from fish. Algae farming produces plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids.

Algae Pharm manager Steve Strutt said Goondiwindi has the perfect ocean microalgae breeding environment – water, sunlight and clean air.

“The microalgae – Nannochloropsis oculate – is a winter crop and grown in the cooler months,” Mr Strutt said. “It doesn’t perform well in the heat of summer, so production is shut down for 3 to 4 months of the year, but we are working on ways to extend this.

“However, when the microalgae is growing, it produces a crop every 24 hours, making it one of the highest value crops per hectare, which is very significant.

“We are currently a pilot operation but are at the stage where Algae Pharm is transitioning from research and development as we engage with the market and are commercialising now.”

Increasing consumer awareness of microalgae’s health benefits and uses for humans and animals across many industries has meant it has gained worldwide interest. Uses include biofuel, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, human food, animal feed and nutrition, and fertilisers.

Aerial photo of Algae Pharm ponds, used in the production of ocean microalgae
Aerial view of Algae Pharm's ponds, used in the production of ocean microalgae.

Mr Strutt said as Algae Pharm goes into commercial production, they will also move into the export market.

“We currently employ 3 people while we are in the pilot phase, but we will need more staff when we go to market.”

As well as health benefits and other multiple uses, Mr Strutt said growing ocean microalgae had added benefits for the environment.

“Bore water is used because it is close to ocean salinity and harvesting is a de-watering process with the vast majority captured and recycled back to the ponds. Only a small percentage of water used in production is lost through evaporation and harvesting.”

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