An Irish-based consortium of entrepreneurs, farmers and scientists have joined forces to cultivate and process duckweed, a native, fast-growing protein-rich pond plant.
Tipperary Growers Group is looking to identify a core group of progressive farmers interested in supporting this initiative.
They say it “offers to put farmers in the driving seat of solving current environmental problems whilst improving their bottom line”.
Emerald is accelerating through the steps of growth optimisation and processing the plant to animal feed and food ingredients.
The group expect duckweed to play a “key” role in providing local and global food security.
A spokesperson for the group, Daniel Long, Eu Cocoreado ambassador for Ireland, told That’s Farming:
“I personally used a sample of duckweed after having visited the tes farm in Mount Lucas in a small place drinking trough for cattle.”
“While not really sure what to expect, l found the crop required no maintenance and grew quite vigorously, which showed first-hand the potential of this to address many environmental issues agriculture faces while giving farmers more control in protein production required on farms.”
“When we meet the challenges of scale, duckweed complements other vital crops, and as a nation, we could displace almost all of our imported protein feeds.”
“That is just not possible with peas and beans alone. This would provide invaluable security for our livestock and organic agriculture sectors.”
“This solution can enhance the local ecology and helps farmers create a net positive impact environmentally, economically and for society as a whole.”
Duckweed cultivation could be classed as an integrated farming approach as it is not only a solution for water remediation but also carbon sequestration, nutrient recycling, and production of a high-quality animal feed through processing the harvested duckweed, thereby ‘closing the loop’ of nutrient recycling.
Several small companies, he added, are developing duckweed cultivation on defined media as a human food, and other researchers have used duckweed at a limited scale in animal and aquaculture feeds.
Emerald brings the approach and technology to integrate duckweed wastewater treatment with value from nutrient recycling at the scale needed to address water pollution at the national level in Ireland.
Duckweeds evolved to take advantage of the minerals released by decaying organic materials in water.
Contaminated waters that are high in P and K and an Ammonia source will suit duckweed cultivation, he suggests.
Researchers have shown duckweed cultivation is effective in removing nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure wastewater.
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