Small business, academia, industry and policy leaders converged on the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to discuss a roapmap moving forward for Australia’s burgeoning algae industry.
The bioeconomy – materials created from organisms rather than traditional manufacturing or fossil-fuel-based products – is a huge new growth industry for Australia, the Algae Business Summit heard.
“Up to 60% of our manufacturing can come from organisms – the bioeconomy,” said Peter Ralph, the director of the Climate Change Cluster at UTS, a centre focussed on new insights into problems facing marine ecosystems by working at the intersection of the physical and life sciences.
“The bioeconomy can remove and wean us off the carbon economy,” he said.
“This will be a game changer. It’s a trillion dollar economy globally and employs around 17.5 million people.”
Industries present at the summit included Pacific Bio, an Australian biotech company whose signature product, RegenAqua, cleans wastewater using seaweed filled water tanks that can be placed near wastewater from councils or aquaculture farms. During this cleaning process, it also creates as a subsidiary product PlantJuice, a fertiliser for farmers.
Also present at the summit was Sampano, supply chain specialist who source local ingredients for global nutraceuticals, and whose biggest success story was developing the science and strategy to replace krill oil in Swisse pharmeceuticals with a vegan seaweed alternative.
Colin McGregor, CEO of BioGenesis, which develops nutraceutical, stock feed and fertiliser products from seaweed, says the potential for algae is vast in a green climate ecology, but it needs policy and regulatory input, something the summit aims in developing within a new roadmap for the industry going forward.
“Algae is the fastest growing plant on the planet. It doubles in mass everyday – compare that to corn, which doubles its mass every 60 days,” says McGregor.
“We know that algae has to be part of the solution to feed the planet. Half of all of the world’s photosynthesis is already provided by algae. Climate change and food are the two big opportunities for the future.”
Catriona McCloud, Interim Executive Director, Institute for Antarctic and Marine Studies, said you can replace whole carbon based industries.
“The opportunity is huge,” she said.
Take Asparagopsis, for example, a genus of edible red macroalgae that massively reduces methane emissions from cows.
“We have to come together to share knowledge, understanding and the pathway moving forward. We need to be clear about our purpose and what it means. We need to get people on the journey and be clear about what the benefits are.”
By Heather Catchpole