Low-Cost Alternative Feed for Sustainable Agriculture
The cost of traditional animal feed consisting largely of corn and soy has increased significantly over recent years. Algae is a promising low-cost alternative that is relatively easy to grow, rich in nutrients, and does not compete with the growth of traditional feed crops. Feed trials were conducted in partnership with the Poultry Science Department at Auburn University to determine if including dried algae in the animal poultry diets can produce growth benchmarks similar to those produced by conventional feed. Based on the results of the feed trials, the growth of poultry using algae added feed is comparable to the growth of poultry using traditional feed. Further investigation of the processed poultry is being investigated to determine any added nutritional benefit.
The novelty of innovative agriculture makes it easier to implement as a female activity in a society where agricultural entrepreneurship often tends to be male oriented. Since women are the primary caretakers of their household, this system gives mothers an opportunity to provide for their often malnourished children.
In addition to fighting malnourishment, families must also contend with the lack of sanitation in these areas which can result in enteropathy. Enteropathy is an intestinal condition that results in the inability to adequately absorb nutrients which exacerbates the chronic malnutrition that is often seen in these areas.
Implementing algae feed systems in Haiti and Ethiopia as pilot studies provides a manner to test the effectiveness and scale-up market opportunities for algae production as poultry feed. Further studies into sanitation and nutrition can also be completed in conjunction.
The cost of traditional animal feed consisting largely of corn and soy has increased significantly over recent years. While there are common alternatives to corn/soy such as wheat/cotton seed meal/dried distiller’s grain, these substitutes are often of lower nutritional value or require arable land making them competitive with existing crops.
Algae is a promising low-cost alternative that is relatively easy to grow, rich in nutrients, and does not compete with the growth of traditional feed crops. Growing algae simply requires water, sunlight, and nutrients—primarily nitrogen and phosphorous. Thus, algae can be grown in tanks, ponds, or similar bodies of water that are unsuitable for other crops. The input water may be non-potable or wastewater that often already contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus making it unsuitable for discharge into (or to) the environment. These nutrients are beneficial for algae growth. Thus, algae may be used to treat wastewater and, later, harvested as a feed source.
Feed trials were conducted at the Auburn University Poultry Research Farm to determine if including dried algae in the animal poultry diets can produce growth benchmarks similar to those produced by conventional feed.
Harvested dried algae was pelletized and mixed into traditional feed at varying percentages. The results of the study are displayed in the bar graph.
Marginal differences were found for body weight, feed conversion (FC), and feed conversion rate (FCR) in the feed trials using the varying percentages of dried algae. However, there was a direct correlation between increased percentage of algae in the feed and darker meat/skin color. The Hoechst skin color chart was used to measure the broiler skin coloration from 1(lightest) to 7 (darkest). The high levels of carotenoids and other constituents found in algae provide a more yellow coloration to the skin and darker color to the meat and may indicate increased nutritional value. Further studies need to be performed to determine if carotenoids, Omega-3 or other constituents carry through to the meat . Algae oil is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids which have been demonstrated to have positive health effects such as decreased risk of cardiovascular issues .
Based on the results of the feed trials, the growth of poultry using algae added feed is comparable to the growth of poultry using traditional feed. Further investigation of the processed poultry is being investigated to determine any added nutritional benefit.
As the price for traditional feed increases, utilizing algae as a nutritional supplement to traditional feed can decrease the cost of animal production and increase food security for vulnerable populations at a low cost.
 Nitsan, 1999 - Enrichment of Poultry Products with Omega3 Fatty Acids by Dietary Supplementation with the Alga Nannochloropsis and Mantur Oil
 Kassis, 2012 – Characterization of lipids and antioxidant capacity of novel nutraceutical egg products developed with omega-3-rich oils
The novelty of innovative agriculture makes it easier to implement as a female activity in a society where agricultural entrepreneurship often tends to be male oriented. The traditional roles that women play often center on raising poultry/eggs which is in line with the production of algae for poultry feed. This novel agricultural system gives women, who are the primary caretakers of their children, an opportunity to provide for their family.
Proper nutrition for children in Eastern and Southern Africa is a challenge, with more than 25 million children under five years old suffering from chronic malnutrition. A large contributing factor to improper nutrition is providing insufficient amounts of iodized salt and vitamin A to the child’s diet .
The lack of sanitation in these areas can also lead to environmental (tropical) enteropathy, an intestinal condition caused by continual fecal-oral contamination. Enteropathy can result in a reduced ability to absorb nutrients which may cause malnutrition and stunting in children. Additionally, absorption issues may contribute to the failure of nutritional interventions and oral vaccines. A goal is to study the effects of sanitation on enteropathy in Ethiopia and hopefully expand the study to other areas like Mozambique.
 Young Child Survival and Development. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2015, from http://www.unicef.org/esaro/5479_nutrition.html
In Haiti and Ethiopia, algae feed systems are being implemented as pilot studies. We are working with League of Hope and Partners in Health (known as Zanmi Lasante in Haiti) to implement an aquatic biomass for animal production program in Corporant, Haiti at the Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant (CFFL), a nonprofit vocational school. Algae/duckweed ponds were constructed on the premises to start biomass production.
An introductory seminar on algae and duckweed production was held at CFFL where students learned the fundamentals of maintaining an algae/duckweed feed system.
USAID funds the Ethiopian venture to grow algae/duckweed feed to start up agricultural micro-businesses for Ethiopian women. The goals of this project are to test the effectiveness and scale-up market opportunities for algae production as feed for poultry and potentially dairy and aquaculture businesses. The idea is that groups of vulnerable Ethiopian women will run these businesses to improve their financial outcomes, nutrition and health security, and the empowerment of these women and their children. The organizations Stand for Vulnerable and Because of Kennedy in conjunction with Emory University have provided graduate students to survey the key metrics, i.e. nutritional, lifestyle factors, etc. of Ethiopians to establish a baseline and compare outcomes. Over 70 Ethiopians have also been hired to recruit 1200 women to participate in the study. Further endeavors in Zambia with the Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development are currently being explored to detail a scope of work.
For more information on our current sponsors, please click the links.
League of Hope — http://www.leagueofhope.org/
Zanmi Lasante — http://www.pih.org/country/haiti/about
Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant — http://partnersinag.org/programs/cffl/
Stand for Vulnerable — http://www.sva.org.et/
Because of Kennedy — http://www.becauseofkennedy.org/Because_of_Kennedy/
Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development — http://zisd10101.com/
US Agency for International Development — http://www.usaid.gov/
Auburn University — http://poul.auburn.edu/
Emory University — http://www.sph.emory.edu/
Project Contact: Robert Wallace