By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
The Algal Technologies Programme (ATP) in Qatar will develop a new system to protect its algae cultivation from possible damages caused by evaporation of water and sandstorms.
The programme, a collaboration between Qatar University (QU), Qatar Airways, and Qatar Science and Technology Park, seeks to develop sustainable technologies from algae aimed at protecting the environment and diversifying the country’s economy.
“The problems we face in Qatar in algae production are water evaporation, excessive light, and sand contamination,” ATP manager Dr Hareb Mohamed al-Jabri told Gulf Times.
While the classic method to cultivate algae exists in other countries, he stressed that they will use a combination of “close and open” systems for Qatar.
He said the new system, possibly the first-of-its-kind, will be applied during the demonstration, pre-commercial and commercial phases of the programme.
Starting from one hectare, the plant may expand up to 100 hectares. According to Dr al-Jabri, the system will use a mechanism controls the exposure of algae strains to sunlight and keeping them safe from sandstorm.
Keeping the strains in a closed or covered area will also prevent further water evaporation from the pool where the algae are cultivated, he pointed out. The ATP team will also reduce the required space for the plant by going vertical.
QU currently operates an algae testing plant at its farm in Al Khor for the programme using the classic system. It consists of open race-way ponds with paddle wheels and closed flat panel photo bioreactors.
“Our main aim is to go from the research and development (R&D) phase to the demo, pilot and then to the implementation/commercialisation,” Dr al-Jabri said.
QU has been collaborating with government agencies such as the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and Public Works Authority, among others, and with the private sector to apply what has been done during the R&D phase.
“This is in our agenda, we are very close to it, and we are currently in negotiation with our partners and with our collaborators, now we can apply the system,” Dr al-Jabri said.
Once fully operational, ATP sees the possibility of Qatar exporting algae products in the future depending on the demand.
The programme is focusing in producing animal and marine feeds, which at this time are more feasible right now.
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