ARTESIA >> One Southeastern New Mexico research center is on the cusp of revolutionizing the nutrition industry, but funding has dried up despite a recent track record of success according to an official….
The Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management (CEHMM) in Carlsbad has teamed up with the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Artesia to grow, farm and harvest large quantities of algae as part of on-going experiments. The CEHMM began its algae project in 2006 to investigate the potential of using algae as a renewable energy source, but researchers quickly discovered the algae oil was much more effective when used in a different method altogether – as human and animal nutritional products.
CEHMM extracts oil from the algae it grows in outdoor raceway ponds, and while some of it is used for diesel fuel to power company trucks, a majority of the oil is used in human and animal food. CEHMM Executive Director Doug Lynn said the algae oil is similar in composition to vegetable oil and contains antioxidants such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
“You can feed the algae to cattle, for example, and they’ll actually marble their meat with the Omega-3 phospholipids and not with saturated fat, so you can conceivably eat a steak that is better for you than salmon,” Lynn said. “We actually had a company that fed it to cattle in Kansas and they sent us some roasts, steak and hamburgers and we cooked them here and we ate it. It was just as good as any other commercial meat but the nice thing was that it has all these health benefits. It can be done, and that’s not only a feasible approach, it’s already been demonstrated.”
However the success of the algae project also had a negative effect.
Lynn said that around 2011, funding for the CEHMM algae project had nearly been exhausted. The non-profit organization could not continue to rely on Department of Energy and other federal grants because of a grant system that Lynn said punished accomplishment.
“The federal grant system is such that if you come up with something that has solutions or you demonstrate proficiency, they will generally stop your grant because you’ve accomplished what you said you would accomplish,” Lynn said. “Many of our universities, national labs and a lot of other places recognize that so they’re always in the mode that it needs more research. That’s how they are able to maintain their lifeblood in specifically grants and other federal funding mechanisms.”
The facility that the CEHMM uses for its algae project in Atoka, just south of Artesia, is the only one of its kind in the United States that boasts the capabilities to grow, cultivate, harvest and extract oil from the algae all in one centralized location. That makes the CEHMM algae project an untapped green gem sitting near the Pearl on the Pecos according to Lynn.
“Our algae program today is on cruise control,” Lynn said. “It has much to offer for a commercial entity to take it and run with it. There is unlimited potential for a project like this and it (presents) a commercial opportunity like no other.”
CEHMM has scaled back its algae oil production while the organization currently seeks suitors willing to invest in the project. Lynn said that CEHMM is in talks with one company from Chile and two corporations based in the United States, but he could not identify them by name because negotiations are on-going.
Zack Ponce, Current Argus
View original article at: Funding for algae research drying up