It may be years before commercial scale raceways can be developed and large volumes of biomass developed into biofuels, however, but Fernandez says researchers are making a lot of progress.

Currently, his research team is getting biomass production on the order of 0.8 grams of dry ash-free biomass per liter of microalgae culture. While that is not sufficient for commercial production, he says in the bioreactors researchers are using, that number nearly doubles, approximately 1.6 grams of dry material of biomass per liter of microalgae production. If production ratios increase much more, we may see large commercial microalgae production facilities within a few years.

While much of the work in the Corpus Christi facilities deals with biofuel research, in addition to producing microalgae, researchers are also focusing on developing super-intensive culture techniques for commercial production of shrimp for human consumption and for live-bait shrimp.

Emphasizing environmental stewardship, the Mariculture Laboratory works to minimize environmental impact through use of zero-exchange, closed recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), while testing feed formulations, substituting plant-based ingredients in place of fish meal and fish oil.

The Lab focuses on research to promote development of new industries including production of algae biomass for biofuel, and cultivation and management of native halophyte plants to reduce the impact of aquaculture effluents and for production of biofuel.

Fernandez says the AgriLife research team is working in collaboration with a number of other researchers and programs including the U.S. Marine Shrimp Farming Program, Drs. Lacy & Nikolov, Texas A&M University in College Station, researchers at Texas A&M facilities in Galveston and Kingsville, researchers at Auburn University and Ben Gurion University in Israel, among others.


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