"So far, we have learned that the algal byproduct is very strain dependent," Ivey said. "Depending on what kind of algal strain is being grown affects the quality of the co-product. The quality is also affected by the method of harvesting, and also how the oil is extracted. Right now, this is a young industry so there are a lot of different things we are looking at as far as methods of growing, harvesting and extracting."

She said NMSU's goal is to take multiple strains from multiple harvest techniques and from multiple extraction techniques and build a database that can then be used to compare all the different strains with all the different harvest and extraction techniques, and how it all affects the co-product.

The long-term goal of the project is to add more value to the co-product. Ivey said one difficulty they are facing now is that they cannot get to a consistent product and that in order to create a product that people can depend on, they need to find a way to make the algal co-product consistent in value and nutrients. Researchers within the consortium are using soybean meal as the gold standard as they try to find consistency as soybean meal mean is always very close to 40 percent crude protein, no matter where or when it is bought.

At this point, Ivey has finished the fermentation studies and is starting to analyze the samples.

"I've learned a lot through this research," Ivey said. "It's been really interesting. We've made some really good contacts and met some neat people - people who are very passionate about algal biofuels."

 

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