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Date: 06 Mar 2014

The place of algae in agriculture: policies for algal biomass production

Abstract

Algae have been used for food and nutraceuticals for thousands of years, and the large-scale cultivation of algae, or algaculture, has existed for over half a century. More recently algae have been identified and developed as renewable fuel sources, and the cultivation of algal biomass for various products is transitioning to commercial-scale systems. It is crucial during this period that institutional frameworks (i.e., policies) support and promote development and commercialization and anticipate and stimulate the evolution of the algal biomass industry as a source of renewable fuels, high value protein and carbohydrates and low-cost drugs. Large-scale cultivation of algae merges the fundamental aspects of traditional agricultural farming and aquaculture. Despite this overlap, algaculture has not yet been afforded a position within agriculture or the benefits associated with it. Various federal and state agricultural support and assistance programs are currently appropriated for crops, but their extension to algal biomass is uncertain. These programs are essential for nascent industries to encourage investment, build infrastructure, disseminate technical experience and information, and create markets. This review describes the potential agricultural policies and programs that could support algal biomass cultivation, and the barriers to the expansion of these programs to algae.

Guest Editor: Steve Mayfield.