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Queensland sugar mill to harness wastewater for algae-based biofuel and food

The Isis Central Sugar Mill in Queensland, Australia, is embarking on a novel venture, using its wastewater to grow algae for human food and fuel. This approach is innovative in that it offers a sustainable solution for energy and food production without competing for agricultural land.

Algae, commonly seen in aquatic environments, is being repurposed as a potential resource for biofuels and human consumption. This is particularly significant as it avoids the usual conflict of using agricultural land for fuel rather than food production, a concern highlighted by Associate Professor Mark Harrison from the Queensland University of Technology.

Dr. Harrison foresees a future where algae-based biodiesel is commonplace at fuel stations. This initiative aligns with the International Energy Agency's push for clean energy adoption in light of the expected peak in fossil fuel demand.

At the Isis Central Sugar Mill, construction plans for algae cultivation ponds are in place. These ponds will leverage the nutrient-rich wastewater from the mill, providing an ideal breeding ground for algae. This method, as explained by Chief Operating Officer Craig Wood, also offers environmental benefits such as reduced greenhouse emissions and cleaner water runoff.

"If it works out properly, we should be able to do it at a viable proposition so it assists the growers to be able to put biodiesel into their farm tractors," chief operating officer Craig Wood said.

"This will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that the whole industry uses in this area."

Scaling algal production to a commercially viable level presents significant challenges, primarily in terms of technical expertise and achieving cost-competitiveness with traditional fuels. However, this project is integral to the broader goal of transitioning to a decarbonized transport system and integrating biofuels into existing fuel infrastructures.

Furthermore, the mill is considering the potential of algae as a human food source. According to ABC News Australia, this expansion into food production could enhance the project's sustainability and economic feasibility.

The Isis Central Sugar Mill's project stands as a testament to innovative thinking in addressing environmental and energy challenges. By using wastewater for cultivating algae, the mill not only paves the way for a more sustainable future but also sets an example of how industries can adapt and contribute positively to global environmental goals. This endeavor reflects a significant shift towards harmonizing the needs for energy and food in a world increasingly conscious of its ecological footprint.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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