The technology was pioneered at Pacific Reef prawn farm in Ayr, North Queensland, where water from prawn ponds was successfully cleaned before going out to the Great Barrier Reef area.
The company, MBD Energy, says the water ejected from the operation is even cleaner than the water it draws in from the reef to feed the prawn farm. The algae eats nitrogen and other nutrients that the farming process puts into the water. The algae, or seaweed, can then be sold as a healthy food.
While 2014 was a year of successful trials, 2015 could be the year when the technology spreads into other aquaculture and agriculture ventures on a commercial scale. MBD Energy director of agribusiness and government relations, Tony St Clair, says the company will look to expand its operation at Pacific Reef, but is in talks with other groups about how it can be used to clean their waste water.
"We will see the further enhancement of that project and Pacific Reef are looking to expand their operation down to Guthalungra once they receive approval, so hopefully that will be in transition over 2015," he said.
"Also, we are looking at growing a red algae not at Pacific Reef but into other areas on fresh water in the Ayr area. "We’ve been very buoyed by the Burdekin Council and the cane growers association there that have been to our plant just before Christmas, so we are moving forward.
"A few of them can see an option for getting into another enterprise other than just cane growing, without affecting the aquifers." The technology can be used to treat any waste water that is high in nitrogen, which is a common problem in many forms of agriculture. Mr St Clair says the company is looking at piggeries, poultry farms, feedlots and dairy operations.
MBD Energy has already taken its technology overseas, but in early January Mr St Clair will join the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, along with 30 delegates, on a week-long mission to India where he will look at commercial opportunities for its use, particularly on massive, run-down prawn farms which have been ruined by too much nitrogen.
With demand for protein growing rapidly in Asian countries such as India and China, and a new awareness of water sustainability in those countries, Mr St Clair says the time is right for the technology, perfected in Queensland, to make its mark internationally. - ABC