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The Real Value of Marine Agriculture

November 24, 2010
real global problems

Real global problems. (sunflower photo by Jose Maria Cuellar)

This post is not new, it is part of a larger post which I published on 19 March this year; it highlights the real importance of Marine Agriculture, which is not its potential to deliver renewable energy. It is about sustainability and social fairness.


We have a few problems on this earth: unbalanced economies leading to extreme poverty and wealth, shortage of drinking water, shortage (or badly distributed) feed/food, an an increasing global population – 6.8 billion now and 9 billion tomorrow in 2050.

??? Energy??? No, I do not list energy as one of our problems.

We have enough fossil resources for another 600 years or so (which leads to a climate problem, not to an energy problem), but let’s not rely on fossil reserves too much for too long. There really is no need to act so stupidly.

Fact is that solar energy provides the entire yearly energy demand in about 4 minutes. Four minutes supply of solar energy cover a global energy need of an entire year. So, we have an available source of energy, where the supply potential exceeds the demand by about 131,000 times. Ah, yes, sure, but we can’t use it…Well, let’s make that not yet.

We still use technologies to capture and store energy based on principles which go back almost 200 years…..

Does anyone really think that our engineering capability will not find a solution to efficiently store the solar energy when the lack of energy will threaten our more or less convenient existence – or the stability of global societies? In fact, (part of) the solution is there, those who understand the principles of charge separation in a photosynthetic membrane know where to look; the basic science is known, and it will only take some time (minimized by existential or economic pressure) before these principles have been converted into technologies which will capture and save solar energy at >90% efficiencies. Nobody can predict the future, but it is not difficult to trust that existing knowledge will bear fruits in the not-so-far future. With 90% capture efficiency and 131 thousand over-supply it is plausible that most of the required energy can be captured on a fairly small area on the earth’s surface – e.g. in a desert.

Recognition of the non-exsiting energy problem will lessen the need and enthusiasm for biofuel – I hope. Will it dampen the interest in phytoplankton technologies? I am afraid it will, but I hope it will not.

Recognition of the fact that the lack of drinking water, feed and food will increase the suffering of humans should in fact dampen the enthusiasm for biofuel even more. Even if we can make biofuel from phytoplankton, hence without all the disadvantages mentioned above,  it would still be shameful (used here as a strong euphemism) to divert the created biomass away from making feed/food, and burn it in a fancy car or airplane, which move more on subventions than on the biofuel in its tanks.

Drinking water, feed and food, these are the materials that can support life. These are the materials that the sun can not deliver in 131 thousand fold excess. Marine phytoplankton, ‘fueled’ by the sun, can supply the feed and food without consuming drinking water – and concomitantly bind carbon dioxide. And, since its biomass is highly heterogeneous and amenable for almost all known refinery processes,  it can replace most of the derivatives currently being made from fossil fuel -so the value of the (marine plant’s) biomass should be understood  not only as a source for feed and food but also as source for other necessary industrial chemicals (other than fuel).

And with marine algal biomass as a basis for all kind of derived substances, phytoplankon has the potential to drive a new industrial development.  If such production units are created in a framework of a sustainable economic system (in another future post later more on this), the evolution of a phytoplankton industry will then also supply what societies need most to become successful (after nutritional needs are me): societal fair business.

Let’s work on the survival of global societies – the only pathway to a future for everyone.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2010 12:37 PM

    J’ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m’avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

    – Daniel

    • Bernd Kroon permalink
      December 23, 2010 12:21 PM

      Daniel, je suis heureux que mon blog vous a donné l’idée d’une solution. J’espère que d’apprendre comment le blog vous a aidé?

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