The next wave of Agricultural production for New Zealand is sitting right at our feet.
Algae grow extremely fast, and need enormous quantities of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. This makes them ideally suited to consume the carbon dioxide emitted from geothermal power plants or other processes before the gas escapes into the atmosphere. It also means that areas with large carbon dioxide supplies might be well-suited to grow algae.
Numbers coming from initial analysis of kgCO2E per kilogram of meat and milk production form pasture based diets within New Zealand are similar to the ones above.
As more and more pressure is put on feeding 10 Billion people by 2050, alternate crops are needed. New Zealand has the technology within it's dairy industry milk processing facilities to make rapid advances in Microalgae production. The next question will be if we have the science and expertise to make this viable options for the immediate future.
World technology in this space has been limited to some larger players who have defined their production for their own value added products. Emerging, New Zealand based technology like "Tahi Spirulina" are showing some exciting developments and demonstrate the cornerstone production will be boutique and value added. Like any farming operation Algae needs a nutrient source and more significantly a good source of CO2. New Zealand's drive for Carbon Zero by 2050 makes paring of waste to energy and bio-digester technology well suited to Algae production.
Like all emerging industries putting a plan on paper is one thing, putting that plan into practice is another. With more lab based papers being released on the benefits of both blue green Algae and structural Red Algae ( more commonly known as Red Seaweed) New Zealand is perfectly placed to move into a harvesting space. A recent decisions by the Court of Appeal on Motiti Island giving councils the power to regulate fishing and protect native species will have a large impact on harvesting of native algae as over 90 species of algae are unique to New Zealand. Harvesting from the wild may prove to become more regulated.
Farming Algae in intensive glasshouse type operations is therefore a viable option. Sourcing nutrients complementary to the growing of a species of Algae will be essential as will Venture capital.
Are New Zealand's capital markets ready for this?
New Zealand in the past has lived on the number 8 wired innovation grown agricultural and horticultural markets from the ground up. More recently we have become fixated with cornerstone investment in real estate, institutional banks have encouraged a generation fixated on growing equity within relatively comfort of their own homes. Investing in primary production innovation is fraught with danger, against the backdrop of simple widget production you have the success and failings of nature. None of it is for the faint hearten.
The Next Step
Pairing Technology with innovation and good financial modelling is essential. Pairing investors with people with the ability to make ideas into reality is essential. Joining this space will need strong morals and people with both the tenacity and vision to move to the next level. With informed decision making supported by visionary leadership we are all ready to move.