Algae grown on pig slurry could be turned into a source of food for the animals, if a West Australian research project is successful.
Murdoch University researchers are working on the project, which has identified three species of micro-algae capable of growing on piggery waste, which typically contains extremely high levels of ammonium.
It is hoped micro and macro-algae grown on pig excrement could eventually produce a safe, protein-rich source of food for pigs.
Murdoch’s Dr Naveed Moheimani said researchers were testing products of algae grown from pig poo to see if it was safe to feed to pigs.
“We are measuring the number of bacteria in the algae and in the algae biomass that we produce to see if it would be useful for the pigs, to be fed back to the pigs,” he said.
“If we find out it’s not a good source of feed, we’re not going to be using it as a feed.
“But … there is also an opportunity to use the biomass produced as a source of bioenergy.”
Alternative uses available if feed options fails
The team believes the discovery offers a potentially cost effective means of remediating piggery effluent.
Currently piggeries often trap and tap methane to be used as biogas for energy generation.
However, Dr Moheimani said even after that process the waste water is still high in nitrogen and ammonium and was quite toxic.
He said the research could potentially help cut costs, recover energy from waste and reduce the potential for groundwater contamination at piggeries.
“I think it’s all positive because the industry is worried about the fuel people use and the carbon footprint,” he said.
“We’re certainly reducing the carbon footprint and we’re potentially producing another source of food.
“And even if the food side of the production doesn’t work, we’re producing more energy for them so the piggery can be more self-sufficient when it comes to the amount of energy produced.”
The Cooperative Research Centre for High Integrity Australian Pork has contributed $300,000 to the research.
There are hopes that if the method of treating animal effluent is a success, it could be used in different livestock industries.
Photo: Pig slurry is being converted to algae in attempt to feed back safely to pigs.
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