Algae Ponds - Not Just Food for Thought!
Photo courtesy of Loreta Vainus
What are all these people talking about?
If you guessed an algae pond, you're right. The truth is, it is all of that and more. An algae pond is a greenhouse with an indoor pond which produces spirulina algae, tilapia fish, and pure oxygen, and it purifies water, all within its own biosphere. Actually, it's not a sphere; it's a 20' X 90' greenhouse unit with a fully enclosed, self-supporting, closed-loop ecosystem with a controlled micro-climate.
The basic framework covers the lined hole for the pond.
A knot secures the ropes used to pull the cover over the framework.
The algae and fish create a mutually supporting or symbiotic community, as a true, closed-1oop ecosystem. Spirulina, the primary algae grown in the algae pond, is one of the best converters of carbon dioxide to oxygen and is known also as a high-nutrient food and fertilizer. The algae are food for Tilapia, catfish, crayfish or blue tip lobsters; the waste from the critters, and other wastes, are food for the algae. The acidity (pH level) of the pond is maintained at a constant 8.5. All the conditions are monitored and controlled once daily.
The controlled climate of 75°F to 85°F throughout the winter supports the growth of high-quality vegetables year round. Along the perimeter of the pond, bags of organic, algae-fertilized soil double as the pond's liner-holders and planters for various vegetables and herbs. The amount of food that can be grown can feed a family of four for a year.
The indoor pond is divided into two separate pond environments by a baffle that supports a footbridge. One side is where the spirulina algae are grown; the other is artificial wetlands with several kinds of algae and aquatic plants. It accommodates fish and other critters. There are some cases when the fish are only on one side, such as when spirulina is grown for production rather than just to feed the fish. In that case, the pH and temperature may need to be adjusted to control competing algae.
Algae ponds also offer the capability of converting organic wastes such as manure, sewage, crop culls, windfall fruits, spoilage, conventional and selected energy crops (such as corn) into high protein food and feed, fuel, pharmaceutical grade alcohols, methane gas, and high quality fertilizers. Theoretically, this complex could provide all the fuel for heating itself as well as your home.
Algae also produce an abundance of pure oxygen, something that is being constantly destroyed by our modern lifestyle. The degradation of the environment and the quality of life on our planet may soon reach a level close to the point of no return. If implemented on a global scale, systems like these could have a significant and positive environmental impact. For twenty-five years, research has been conducted regarding this type of closed-loop ecosystem and it now seems possible that this technology will emerge as a valuable survival tool.
EcoGenics takes up the survival challenge
"The vision," says Marc Cardoso, organizer of EcoGenics and mastermind of the algae pond, "is to remedy the current environmental situation. The environmental factor affecting our lives is sinister. The agri-industrial complex pollutes the air we breathe, destroys the nutritional value of the food we eat, bombards us with nuclear radiation, carcinogenic gases and chemicals, and contaminates our food with bacteria and disease-bearing impurities. All these are due to a blatant disregard for anything other than how to make bigger profits at our expense, no matter what the cost. This can lead to a sense of utter despair and hopelessness, but we can change this. We can counter this progress of the declining human condition."
The focus of EcoGenics is to take up the challenge of surviving into the future. The way we now live is much worse than counterproductive. The basic strategy is to offer practical countermeasures based on decentralization and self-sufficiency. Marc's dedication to self-sustaining, closed-loop ecosystems and alternative energy production systems has resulted in his successful organization of EcoGenics. The algae pond prototype has been the model, and now hundreds of algae ponds are in use and under construction.
Marc says, "By using commonly available organic wastes that are recognized as major polluters, EcoGenics harvests municipal, commercial and farm waste to produce fuels, foods, and fertilizers. Our closed-loop ecosystem design utilizes all wastes. The pond operates in a closed loop where the algae eat the fish waste and the fish eat the algae. There are no outside inputs and the whole system is self-sustaining."
Opportunities for Profit
Theoretically, yields of up to one ton of algae and up to one pound of tilapia fish per gallon of water every six months are possible in this complex. If these capabilities were to be fully implemented, opportunities would be available that could more than offset current economic trends by maximizing dollar per acre profits for the agricultural community by using renewable, environmentally sound technologies.
Along with the pond complex, non-polluting agri-industrial systems can produce clean burning alcohol fuels that can reduce emissions by up to 90 percent. The waste (basically grains) from alcohol production could be fed to livestock and other edible life forms. Manures from these, known to be causing atmospheric degradation today, would in turn be processed to produce nonpolluting natural gas (methane). The remaining solids and liquids from these wastes are then fed to the algae, and large quantities of algae, including blue green algae, can be produced. Blue green algae absorb the carbon dioxide and nutrients, making them highly nutritious, and they are in turn fed back to the animals, and so on.
Alcohol On-Farm Production
- Could I make grain alcohol on my farm?
Yes. In fact, nearly 22,000 farmers have applied for permits to do just that.
- Is distillation difficult?
Not really. The process involves converting the starchy content of the corn (or other energy material) to sugar, then to alcohol ... and finally "boiling off" the alcohol from the water.
- Where could I get help if I wanted to build an on-farm still?
The Alternative Energy Coalition has developed a useful handbook that provides rather detailed information about farm stills, supplies, sources for the yeast and enzymes needed in the process. Call or write for a copy.
- Are there blueprints or plans available?
Several engineering firms are working with farmers on developing small stills. Also, several universities are building "pilot" stills.
- How much alcohol can I get from corn?
With a reasonably efficient facility, you'll about 2.6 gallons of 165 proof alcohol per bushel of corn.
- How much would a farm still cost?
If you can furnish your own labor, some welding and such, you could probably build a unit for as little as $2,000. Cost can be much higher depending on how much automation you include, and how much equipment for quality control.
- What about alcohol storage - does it evaporate fast?
Store it exactly as you would gasoline. If your storage tank is underground or located in good shade, you'll have no special problems with alcohol.
Water treatment system
In addition, the aqua cultural system not only serves to produce marketable commodities (these new energy crops would then result in new job opportunities over a broad range of skill levels) but also as an essential part of a water treatment system. The addition of aquatic plants selected for their known performance as bioremediators serves to polish the waste stream into waters suitable for irrigation of food crops and for further processing and potable water.
This system is designed to be appropriately labor intensive and community based, creating opportunities for local small business development and skilled employment. Furthermore, given the diversity of skills and knowledge applied in the operation of the facility, educational opportunities abound. EcoGenics currently draws student groups and faculty from surrounding colleges and universities.
Planning for the future
An algae pond is available to anyone who has a plot of land large enough to accommodate its moderate size. Think of all the benefits, individually and globally. This self-sustainable loop based on the utilization of waste by which fish, vegetables and oxygen can be produced in a self-sustaining, environmentally-friendly facility, is truly the salvation of the future. Thanks to the dedicated individuals involved, it has already begun.
Marc Cardoso is an avid horseman and ranch owner in Mexico where he raises Thoroughbreds, Arabians and a Paso Fino. The original algae pond prototype is located at his other farm in Tennessee. EcoGenics is actively pursuing opportunities to replicate its working model, market its sustainable products, and enlist the support of interested communities and institutions. Their products and technologies offer an extremely cost effective, renewable and environmentally responsible alternative for both producers and consumers.
EcoGenics is currently working on algae pond closed-loop systems in Rising Fawn, Georgia; Norris, Tennessee; Sherwood, Oregon; Delona, California; Flatwoods, Virginia; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and in the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Additional work is being done in the country of Ghana.
Phone: 423-428-0314; Fax: 423-908-0023
About Marc Cardoso
Marc Cardoso is the brain behind EcoGenics. A specialist in many areas including architecture, construction, industrial design, graphic design, product engineering and horsemanship, Mr. Cardoso has combined his technical know-how with agribusiness, environmental concerns, and economic savvy to develop a closed loop ecosystem that produces fuel, food, and fertilizer. Mr. Cardoso has conducted over a quarter of a century of research and development work to perfect the EcoGenics prototype. Already, the EcoGenics prototype has proven its ability to produce U.S.F. quality alcohol and profitable by-products in harmony with nature from virtually any organic material at a very low cost.
Prior to his involvement with ethanol as an alternative fuel, Mr. Cardoso's creative mind served him well in his former ventures in agribusiness, architecture, product development and engineering, industrial design, graphic design, and construction. Mr. Cardoso's successful projects and impressive achievements are too many to name, but a few are representative of the whole. They include:
- Commendation for service beyond the call of duty by the U.S. Army for service with the U.S. Army Chemical Research Command
- Development of wireless solar power transmission using microwave carrier beams
- Several patented products in use world wide, including a portable surgical operating and examination table
- Various impressive architectural and construction achievements
- Development of a solar-powered electrical generator
- Organization of the Tennessee Gasohol Commission
- Builder of one of the first farm scale alcohol fuel plants in the United States, as well as solar, cogeneration, and other alternative energy systems
Marc has also been published in worldwide media and has taught and lectured extensively throughout the United States.