Book Review – Imagine Our Algae Future

Well, I bought this book last year from Amazon and said that I’d give a review, as I will with all the algae books I obtain.Imagine Our Algae Future

Imagine Our Algae Future is a book that aims to predict the central role that algae will play in our future. Does it do this convincingly? Mmmmm, not really, to my mind.

It starts off giving an overview of the current state of the uses that algae has and the industry around that. Biofuels, cosmetics, stockfeeds, waste treatments and the other known applications. An overview of the production systems used for these applications is also given. That’s about the first 25% of the book.

Most of the remainder of the book is given over to the submissions entered for the Visionary Algae Architecture & Landscape Designs – International Algae Competition that was held in 2011.

The last portion of the book is given over to advertisements, contact emails for the submittors, bio’s for the two authors, and a small list of further information resources.

The Value:

  • If you’re looking for inspiration as to how algae production systems, and why, might be integrated into construction as way of integrating it into our daily lives, then this is a good starting point.

The Lack of Value:

  • There’s no proposed use of the algae beyond current applications, despite there being an abundance of possibilities (as discussed in this blog).
  • within the proposed future integrations, the scope is incredibly narrow in that it looks only at algae production as a singular, monoculture goal.

Example: one of the problems that is attempted to be addressed is world hunger, yet the proposals are either massive microalgae production facilities in third world countries, or plastic tubes or wall panels for growing microalgae at home.

Why not propose, for example, an integrated aquaculture or aquaponics system, that is part of the design? Is it realistic to expect that people would want to grow a singular crop  - it’d be the same as someone simply growing spinach all the time, nothing else !  Not logical and not likely.

  • There’s no reference to any research whatsoever. Varieties, techniques, propagation mechanisms, …..  nothing.

So, overall, I rate the book, two barra’s out of a possible five !

Barra-SolidBarra-Solid Barra-OutlineBarra-OutlineBarra-Outline

Seaweed In Your Diet

It’s good to see articles such as the ones below that have come out recently. While they do not have a big impact individually, I do believe they all contribute to a growing awareness of the flavour and health benefits of seaweed. This can only be of benefit to the industry and should be fully supported by the industry wherever possible.

Seaweed in your diet - Living Green Mag

Seaweed in your diet - Scotsman.com

It’s not just hippie organic hype either. I have some products that I purchased online from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables last year and while some are just so-so, others are products that I would happily consume on a regular basis.

The apple-smoked dulse is something that I can thoroughly recommend as a great snack to have with an ice cold Coopers Ale!

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never

Well, I’m about a year later than I originally planned but I’m finally making some progress to be ready for this spring.

I’ve cleaned out the small freshwater aquaponics system in my orchard;

  • flushed the 1,000 and 500 litre tanks out, then got in and scrubbed them with bleach
  • emptied out the growbed, gave it a scrub, and rinsed off the expanded clay media
1000L_Tank_Small

1000L tank in the foreground

500L_Tank_Small

500L tank under shadecloth

Emptied_GB_Small

Emptied growbed and media

 

Antibacterial Properties in Ulva Pt. 2

I’m finding some good reading time at night this week (somehow) and this is what I worked through last night – more antibacterial agents within my favourite seaweed.

Trigui, M., L. Gasmi, et al. (2012). “Seasonal variation in phenolic composition, antibacterial and antioxidant activities of Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) and assessment of antiacetylcholinesterase potential.” Journal of Applied Phycology: 1-10.

This time, researchers in Tunisia have isolated compounds from Ulva rigida tUlva (not my hand)hat display strong antibacterial and antioxidant activities. Furthermore some of these compounds displayed substantial acetylcholinesterase inhibitory capacity (EC 50 of 6.08 to 7.6 μg mL–¹) .

Without going into some complex medical explanation that is a little beyond me anyway, what this latter property means is that these compounds may be useful in treating disorders of the central nervous system, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are prime examples, by blocking some signals from the brain to the other parts of the brain and to the muscles.

Interestingly, these guys found that the level of antibacterial activity was highest in the samples collected during spring and summer, which is direct contrast to what the Irish researchers in the previous post found. Clearly we do not yet understand which compounds (or combinations of) are responsible for this activity, nor how they are produced by the plant, or what triggers their production. There’s a PhD in that for sure.

Antioxidant activity was highest in those samples collected in the autumn and winter and lowest in the spring and summer.

Obviously the above two paragraphs are important considerations if the Ulva is being cultured and harvested for a specific purpose.

For some reason they only tested the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory capacity from the spring samples so it’s not clear whether there is a season variation in this activity.

Antibacterial Properties in Ulva

I read a fascinating paper last night;

Tan, S., L. O’Sullivan, et al. (2012). “Extraction and bioautographic-guided separation of antibacterial compounds from Ulva lactuca.” Journal of Applied Phycology 24(3): 513-523.

The Ireland-based researchers involved trialled two methods for extracting antibacterial compounds from Ulva lactuca that showed consistent, potent activity against;

  • Staphylococcus aureas (“Golden Staph”)
  • methicillin-resistant (MR) Staphylococcus aureas (the feared antibiotic resistant strain of “Golden Staph”)
  • Bacilus subtilis ( a normal gut bacteria in humans)

Interestingly the antibacterial activity was higher in specimens collected in autumn and winter, than those collected in spring and summer. Even more intriguing was the discovery that a considerable increase in antibacterial activity occured when the specimens were held under a nitrogen atmosphere at -20 C for nine months. The mechanisms behind this finding are yet to be investigated.

MR Staphylococcus aureas infections are deadly serious and becoming more common. These infections kill more people in the USA and Europe than HIV and AIDS (Finch and Hunter 2006; Kelland and Hirschler 2011) and as a result more research is needed in this area.

Just one of the many reasons I’m interested in seaweed cultivation !

 

Christmas In August

What are the odds that two sets of books ordered from two different countries at different times, arrive on the same day ? Very small I’m sure, yet of course that’s how it turned out.

My book on Samphires in Western Australia arrived. First observation is that it is primarily focussed on samphires around the salt lakes from the Pilbara right down to WA’s south west region. Doesn’t seem to cover coastal stuff, though maybe the species are the same – not sure.  The author actually lives not very far away from me, so may see if I can contact her and see whether there are samphires that didn’t covered by the book.

Algal Culturing Techniques

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other two were ordered through Amazon.com and I haven’t had a chance to have a good look at them yet. I’ll give a brief review of each when I have.

Samphire – Hard To Learn

I didn’t think samphire was so obscure !

I managed to get down to Perth CBD Friday lastweekSamphires In Western Australia and get to Boffins Bookstore (a regular haunt of mine) and looked through the three books they had focussing on plants in the SW of Western Australia. One of them even specialised in coastal plants, yet none of the three had samphire listed in the index !  Why is that ?

I thought that was pretty poor. The upside is that it justified my impulse purchase online of the book titled Samphires in Western Australia put out by the Western Australian Government Department of Environment & Conservation, earlier in the week.

Of course the question remains as to why it’s taken 8 days, so far and still counting, for the DEC to get it to me in the same city when I can get stuff over night from Sydney on the other side of the country for almost no extra cost. Anyway, I’ll be patient.

I’d really appreciate hearing about any other sources of information about Australian samphires if anybody has any.

Australian Ulva Identification

Was doing some basic research last night and stumbled across a great document for identifying the common species of Ulva occuring on the southern coastline of Australia.

Ulva At A Glance

thanks to the South Australia Department of Environment & Natural Resources’ eFlora website.

Dr Pia Winberg of the University of Wollongong’s and Shoalhaven Marine and Freshwater Centre has had research students doing some good work on indentifying Ulva on the east coast of Australia, so I will have to check on the availability of that as well.

Saltwater Aquaponics

One thing I will be doing before Christmas this year is to set up a saltwater aquaponics system at home (I already have a 6,000L freshwater system). Only small as a proof of concept, but then to see with what I can do with it from there.Steamed Samphire & Lemon

Fish types are easy as both trout and barramundi can live in full seawater and I can also get black bream fingerlings if needed.

Plants then need some consideration. Obviously I’ll be putting seaweed into the system, and this will be an Ulva variety of some description. However, seaweed on it’s own is unlikely to be attractive to a wide audience.

Hence I’ll need some sort of growbed to be able to grow non-seaweed type plants. Samphire (see the photo) is the first thing that comes to mind. The growbed will also provide me with some or all of my biofiltration. If I can find a number of plants that will be of interest, then increased growbed volume can be my entire biofiltration, if not I’ll hook up a moving bed filter with some Kaldnes media in it.

Better start researching samphires in Western Australia !

New Seaweed Journal

Looks like the publishing house Elsevier agrees with me on the importance of seaweed in the future and have just released a new scientific journal – Algal ResearchNew journal - Algal Research