Microalgae cultivation project in Mexico

[Mexico] The Faculty of Engineering (FI) of the Autonomous University of Querétaro (UAQ) is carrying out a greenhouse drainage water treatment project by using microalgae so that it can be reused without damaging crops, stated Dr. Marieke Vanthoor-Koopmans, professor at the FI and researcher in charge of the microalgae proposal.

Water treatment through this method would lead to saving it for cultivating vegetables. Additionally, it would also raise quality standards in production, which would allow producers to export them to other countries in a more effective manner and at a higher price, as they would be produced in a socially responsible way with a high impact on environmental care.

Vanthoor-Koopmans said the microalgae have many uses because they contain lipids, pigments, vitamins, and carbohydrates, so they are useful as a nutritional supplement, feed, bio-fertilizers, and can be used for the production of biodiesel. Thus, they are conducting a technical and economic feasibility study to maximize this input.

University of Querétaro
University of Querétaro – Agropark Querétaro

He also noted that microalgae reproduce very fast and that there are various kinds available. “It is necessary to observe what types are best for the area’s climate, and to identify the impact that external factors, such as lighting and temperature, have on the large-scale production of the same,” he said.

The university is developing this project in the Agropark Querétaro through the development of a pilot plant located in its vicinity.

Vanthoor-Koopmans said the Agropark had 111 hectares of greenhouses which produce tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper using well water with added nutrients; the water is then discarded by the channels, resulting in the growth of unwanted plants and eliminating oxygen in the environment. A process that is called eutrophication, he said.

The pilot plant has three 650 liter microalgae production systems formed by tubular reactors through which the water passes where the microorganisms, responsible for absorbing nutrients and cleaning the water for reuse, are grown.

The project began in November 2014 and will end in May 2016. According to Vanthoor-Koopmans, once the project comes to an end, they will write a report stating how many cubic meters of water should be treated to be used in all the hectares of the park, and the amount of microalgae that needs to be generated daily.

This project is funded by the Rural Sector’s Investment Capital Fund and the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, through the national agro-parks program. Expectations are that the project can be replicated in other states of the Mexican Republic and abroad.


View original article at: Water treatment plant experts reflect on algal blooms

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