Biofuel production from algae to address food and energy security

Presented by Prof. Peer Schenk
UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Affiliated Professor, QAAFI Centre for Plant Science & QAAFI Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences

Food and Energy Security are closely linked; we use 3-10 calories to produce just 1 calorie of food. There is no doubt that in the long run, much more sustainable technologies are required that use less or no finite resources. Prof Schenk hosts a research team whose work is supported by both public and private funding bodies, and that has led to start-up companies Qponics Pty Ltd and Nexgen Plants Pty Ltd. The team is actively pursuing new approaches to address food and energy security without compromising on finite resources. None of the approaches is easy, but the team is focusing on three new promising technologies. These include:

(1) Molecular breeding of resilient crop cultivars that display disease and drought tolerance. This includes the use of regulatory genes and microRNA to selectively upregulate natural plant defence pathways against pathogenic fungi, bacteria, oomycetes, viruses and nematodes.

(2) Development of new farming practices that utilise the full potential of beneficial soil microbes. This includes ways to shape microbial community of plant rhizospheres to achieve better nutrition and disease resistance (e.g. by spraying with plant signalling molecules).

(3) Construction of an Algae Demonstration Farm that is able to produce food, feed, fuel and nutraceuticals. The team is developing and implementing new simple and low-cost technology for algae strain selection, cultivation, harvesting and extraction that is urgently required to make Algae Energy Farms an economically-viable option for farmers and industry.

Peer will briefly introduce each of the approaches and the challenges and opportunities that come with each project. The groups aim is to critically evaluate new approaches and then involve like-minded collaborators to implement technology at a wider scale. Prompted by collaborators, he will also point towards a modified taxation model that would increase taxes on finite resources but alleviate pressures on income tax and employers. Peers presentation will be followed by a discussion at the end.

About Prof. Peer Schenk


MPhil, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
PhD, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Diploma in Biology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Research Interests:

Biofuel production from algae
Microbial communities associated with plants
Disease resistant plants
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