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Sustainable fuel and aquaculture set in the desert

SBRC inaugurates world’s first facility to grow both food and fuel in the desert. (Photo: SBRC)

SBRC inaugurates world’s first facility to grow both food and fuel in the desert. (Photo: SBRC)

The world’s first research facility aimed at finding a way to grow food as well as generate biofuels using desert land irrigated with seawater has opened in Abu Dhabi.

The facility, which includes six open-air aquaculture farms, eight halophyte fields and four mangrove swamps, is operated by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and funded by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), a group including founding members Boeing, Etihad Airways and process developer Honeywell UOP, as well as General Electric, Safran and Abu Dhabi oil refining company Takreer, Khaleej Times informed.

As part of the project, water is pumped into ponds where tilapia and prawn specimens will at first be raised. Then, the water enriched with nutrients from this fish’s waste is used to irrigate halophyte fields, a plant rich in oil that is ideal for biofuel. What is left over from irrigation is then transferred to mangrove swamps, where the water is purified by the mangroves’ roots before it is recycled back to the fish ponds.

“This is a global shift for biofuel. It is groundbreaking,” pointed out Marc Allen, president of Boeing International, a member of the SBRC. “This year, the aviation industry will use 600 million gallons of biofuels, which is just one per cent of all aviation fuel. We need to scale this up.”  Read more …