JCU algae researchers win top environment award

James Cook University’s innovative algae researchers have proven it is easy being green, winning one of Australia’s top environment awards.

The Centre for Macroalgal Resources & Biotechnology (MACRO) at JCU, Townsville has won this year’s United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) World Environment Day Award for its ground-breaking research into using algae to treat wastewater.

The team won the award in the category Excellence in Sustainable Water Management.

Dr Nicholas Paul said the award recognises the tremendous environmental benefits that algae provides to treat urban, agricultural and industrial wastewater.

“It was such an honour to receive this esteemed award, especially considering the depth of the other finalists and the scale of their environmental projects. ”

“Our project was more than 4 years in the making. We had what was probably the largest team in the world working on algae, more than 30 researchers at the university, to get the technology to the point where it can be commercialised.”

“The UNAA noted the flexible, industry-ready nature of the water treatment systems that we have developed in Townsville and tested across regional Queensland. This is something that we are really proud of. It is so important to highlight the present-day benefits of your scientific research.”

The UNAA also recognised that “the manner in which this project has been conducted is also an exemplar of long term university and industry cooperation.”

Professor Rocky de Nys said: “Our industry partner MBD Energy is a Melbourne-based company that is the first in Australia to commercialise algae as a water treatment option, using this technology to treat nutrients from aquaculture farms adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Their support has been invaluable and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate the award with them on the night.”

“We also got to share the limelight with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which won the Clean Energy Award earlier in the evening. ARENA was one of the main funders of our project, along with the Advanced Manufacturing CRC, so this was the icing on the cake.”

Photo: Left to right: Dr Nicholas Paul, Andrew Lawson (MBD Energy), Prof Rocky de Nys

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