Dave Dreeszen writes in the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal about a local pilot project that focuses on turning manure and other nutrient-rich waste into algae to feed fish and power engines, aiming to diversify the region’s ag-based economy and remove toxins from area waterways.

“The project would be one of the first of its kind, allowing South Sioux City to be a showcase to the world for agriculture and bioenergy in an integrated fashion, sustainable at multiple levels,” said lead researcher on the project, George Oyler, CEO of Clean Green Chesapeake, a Baltimore biotech firm, and a research associate professor in biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust recently approved a $250,000 grant to help finance the test, which would create up to five jobs to start. The researchers are partnering with the city of South Sioux City and local businessman Doug Garwood, owner of Cardinal Farms, which specializes in growing hydroponic tomatoes. Garwood has created a business, Gardwood Enterprises, to manage the commercial fish farm, which will begin by raising tilapia.

The first phase of the pilot project is expected to begin this summer with development of a small greenhouse-like fish tank, covering about an eighth of an acre. The parcel also adjoins the city’s proposed wastewater treatment facility, scheduled for completion in 18 months. The sewage plant would eventually provide nutrient-rich organic waste needed to grow algae. Other sources would be manure from area cattle feeders and heated wastewater from local meat processing plants.

In the initial phase, a small anaerobic digester would break down the material. The gas captured would be used to power the municipal wastewater plant, saving the city an estimated $70,000 per year in electricity costs, said City Administrator Lance Hedquist. In the second phase of the project, Oyler said, additional fish ponds would be developed, covering 3 to 10 acres. That level of expansion would create up to 30 to 40 jobs and raise 5,000 pounds of fish per year.

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