The rural algae farm in Goondiwindi produces alternative vegetable protein that is rich in omega-3

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When thinking of ways to increase your omega-3 intake, think of fish or fill up oil tablets, but thanks to an algae farm in the southwestern town of Goondiwindi, Queensland, you will soon have plant-based products full of fatty acids.

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Nannochloropsis is a species of algae that traditionally grows in the ocean. However, the Woods Group uses drilling water mixed with salt to recreate the ocean, despite being more than 400 kilometers from the coast.

Tom Woods said the algae would be converted into a range of products for people, pets and livestock.

“There is a big boost in vegetable protein and vegetable oil around the world, and these types of seaweed are high in omega-3s,” said Woods.

“We will start with forage products, then with products of the animal feed type, and then with human consumption, various powders and flours, and then through to the extraction of the oil, which is where the value lies – in the omega-3 oil.

“The end game is to make it nutraceutical and pharmaceutical.”

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These seaweed bottles are the starters for the farm. Growing up in the lab is the first step. (

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

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Woods Group already processes grains for fodder and food in Goondiwindi, and Mr Woods said the seaweed would be a great addition.

“We have customers at home and abroad looking for all of these products from us. So if we can have algae protein and oil, as well as other proteins, this is one more thing we have to offer them,” he said.

“Our ponds are now producing commercial quantities and we are finishing the final processing and drying procedures.

“We assume that we will soon be able to include algae in our feed products.”

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Kai Chen is standing in front of two plastic towers filled with algae in May 2020. From the laboratory, the algae are placed in these towers and mixed with water where they will grow before being placed in an experimental pond.

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

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Algae environmental certificates

Mr Woods said the algae farm is also a way for Woods Group to reduce its carbon footprint.

“We have looked for ways to reduce emissions in our own production facilities, and [because] Carbon dioxide is the largest input [into growing the algae]while we add the carbon dioxide to the algae that closes the cycle of entrances and exits, “he said.

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Mr Woods said growing algae is also a more sustainable way to make omega-3s.

“So, fish eat these algae in the ocean and that’s how they get omega-3s. If they didn’t eat the algae, they wouldn’t produce omega-3s,” he said.

“So we’re doing the same thing except bypassing the fish and making a sustainable source of omega-3. It’s a more sustainable farming system.”

A shallow pond with a water wheel under a greenhouse in Goondiwindi, May 2020. The algae are removed from the towers and mixed with more water in this experimental pond. This is the final stage before entering the commercial ponds.

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

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How algae are grown

The recipe for growing algae is pretty simple – you need water, land, sunlight, and carbon dioxide.

However, the growth process is more complex and includes different phases.

It starts in the laboratory in a bottle and is grown in a controlled environment with specific exposure to light and temperature.

The algae are then inoculated into a special plastic bag called a photobioreactor.

From there it is transported to a greenhouse that allows natural light to flow through. However, the temperature is still controlled and the algae are inoculated in two towers.

The commercial algae pond is 250 meters long and is located in a paddock near Goondiwindi. There are currently two commercial ponds covering 0.6 hectares on the site near Goondiwindi. However, up to 4 hectares of ponds can be created.

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

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As soon as the algae have taken over the water in the towers, they are transferred to an experimental pond, which is located under another greenhouse, but which is operated with natural light and natural temperature. This helps the algae adapt to outdoor life.

After the algae have filled the experimental pond, they are finally transferred to the 250 meter long commercial ponds.

To harvest the algae, a water pump drains the ponds and a special filter system separates the algae and the water, which means that all of the water is recycled and pumped straight back into the ponds.

From there, the algae are dried and processed into a number of products. All processing and manufacturing takes place in Goondiwindi.

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