[Malaysia] About 15 km away from Pedas/Linggi exit of North-South highway, there is an unique algae farm on an abandoned ex-mining pond. The farm owner, Jag Kaurah, a technopreneur, demonstrated the cultivation of microalgae known as Spirulina platensis in sealed plastic bags floating on a pond. This algae cultivation method is known as the “floating bed method” (FBM).
According to Jag, within the 0.5 hectare (=5,000 square meter) of the ex-mining pond, the Spirulina grown in the plastic bags could reach about 7 tons per year.
“The cost of production is high currently as our scale is small, and we are still developing new technology. My modeling shows that if we increase the farm to an economic size, the cost would be about USD $ 10.60 per kg.” says Jag.
“That is a lot higher than raceway ponds which I think is about USD $ 5.00 per kg. Our new system which we have tested to 1 ton culture is projected to be able to produce Spirulina at below the cost of raceway ponds – in the region of USD $ 4.00 per kg including depreciation.”
Jag and his team in Algae International Sdn Bhd is now building a 150 ton culture farm with an upgraded system and will be testing several species of algae on that system. The farm will be expanded by early next year.
Being asked about the amount of money that has been invested into the farm, Jag explained that the money to build that system has not been separated out. Our main function is to develop new systems and all the money is lumped together. So far the total expenditure is just over MYR 5 million (equivalant to about USD 1.56 million) over 7 years.
So far the Government has provided grants totaling about RM 1.2 million, and all the rest is private money.
The company is also collaborating with the Biology Department of Universiti Putra Malaysia to develop the algae cultivation technology. Jag stressed that their FBM can compete with open raceway ponds – no other PBR system is even close.
“We work very hard to develop systems so that microalgae can fulfill its promise. We want to see our systems all over the world helping people.” says Jag.
Compared to the OMEGA system proposed by Jonathan Trent from USA NASA, Jag claimed that after the World Intellectual Property Organization published his patent for the FBM in September 2008, many organisations around the World tried to duplicate the system. The OMEGA system by NASA was started in June 2009 with Jonathan Trent heading it.
Founded in Malaysia, Algae International Berhad believes that microalgae can help the world solve many of its problems and that now there is an economically viable system to achieve that aim.
Exclusively reported by Algae World News