Could algae from St Albans lake help save the planet?

PUBLISHED: 11:20 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:28 06 May 2010

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ALGAE from the lake at Verulamium Park in St Albans could prove to be blooming useful to scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden. The algae, which the Herts Advertiser revealed earlier this month, had been covering Verulamium Lake, could be used e

ALGAE from the lake at Verulamium Park in St Albans could prove to be blooming useful to scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden.

The algae, which the Herts Advertiser revealed earlier this month, had been covering Verulamium Lake, could be used eventually to create ethical bio-fuels.

The St Albans-based FREdome Visionary Trust believes the marine algae in the lake could be hugely beneficial to the community.

And as a result of winning three Nuffield Science Bursaries, it is supporting three students from a Watford school who are working with staff at Rothamsted on an experiment which began last week.

Founder and chair of FREdome, Greg Peachey, explained: "The main aim is to cultivate marine algal blooms and convert that biomass into fertilisers to reclaim the world's wastelands and deserts."

In the longer term, FREdome believes existing biotech companies could be able to convert some of the biomass into bio-fuels as well as dry and compress more of the biomass into winter fuel bricks which could even be used to burn in power stations.

The lettuce and marine algae on the lake appeared in June and was removed by netting. But it has been actively regrowing since and although there was little on the lake when FREdome first made an approach to the district council, they had six bags of the algae stored.

Greg added: "Every two weeks it covers the lake again. Because it is marine algae it has all 92 elements we need for a healthy life and could create hugely-nutritious food.

"Modern-day diseases are due to the depletion of a lot of these minerals which are leached out of the soil."

FREdome now has an agreement with the district council and contractors John O'Conner for the provision of a regular supply of the harvested algae.

At the end of the five weeks research at Rothamsted, a news conference will be held to announce the results. The project has three aims - to grow vegetables directly in dilute sea water and do nutrition tests, demonstrate that ordinary sea algae can cause blooms by diluting sea water and use algae from the lake to grow in a controlled environment.

Greg said: "After the five weeks, hopefully we will be at the stage that we can set up some kind of pilot scheme for culturing and processing algae and make use of it."

He added: "We could call this fate because to have the algae on our doorstep was incredibly fortuitous. We have got other algae cultures but to have one which flowers is ideal.

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