Algae champion Ira A. Levine, Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Southern Maine, is traveling India to promote the development of algal farming.

Marine algae have the power to simultaneously fuel vehicles, recycle carbon dioxide, and provide nutrition to animals and humans,” said Ira A. Levine, a tenured Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Southern Maine in the US and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, in an interview with Vinson Kurian of the Hindu BusinessLine.

“They can also create jobs for thousands of people,” he said while delivering a special address in a joint program organized by the Departments of Aquatic Biology & Fisheries, Zoology, Biotechnology and Integrative Biology of the University of Kerala, located in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the south Indian state of Kerala.

India is a growing market for microalgae such as spirulina, which is now given as a pharmaceutical product. There is scope for both small-scale (as cottage industries) and large-scale algal farming in the country. “With its wealth of diverse freshwater and marine algae, including seaweeds, India can play a major role in algal farming and can become a world leader in this sector,” Dr. Levine said.

The US-based Algal Foundation aims to promote the power of algae to transform human society and facilitate a future in which algae are a fundamental source of energy, nutrition products and ecological services for sustainable societies globally.

The Foundation engages in and funds educational outreach, research, development, and other activities; grooming of future leaders through scholarships, grants and other financial and organizational support; facilitates communication among private, academic and public sector leaders and the public to increase broader literacy and awareness of the benefits of algae biomass cultivation and commercialization.

This, he says, also opens up the scope for future collaboration with Indian universities to train a group of students who can become leaders on algal cultivation and research.

Dr. Levine has already visited Meghalaya, Delhi, and Punjab in connection with the algal education program, seeking to expand collaborative research and education. A. Biju Kumar, head of the Department of Aquatic Biology & Fisheries at the University of Kerala, said they looking at ways to cooperate with the University of Southern Maine and the Algae Foundation.

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