A number of circumstances have arisen to drive the cost of animal feed to extremely high levels. Animal feed prices are closely tied to energy costs, which are near record levels despite the current economic downturn. Additionally, there is also a global demand for animal feed ingredients to be used for human food. As the demand for petroleum additives rises, along with the demand for the animal products generated from animals raised on this feed, the cost for poultry feed components (i.e. corn and soy) will continue to reach record levels.
There are alternatives or additions to corn and soy, such as wheat, cotton seed meal, and dried distiller’s grain. One of the major problems with these alternatives is that for every acre planted in wheat, one is not planted in corn, resulting in little or no net gain. At best, one acre in wheat uses a previously unused acre of arable land. In the case of distiller’s or brewer’s grain, much of the nutrient value has been removed in previous processes. Algae, used dried, presents none of these problems. It can be grown in tanks, ponds or raceways on land that is unusable for other crops, as long as there is sun. It may be grown on almost any water or wastewater source that contains nitrogen. If the oil is not harvested from the algae for other purposes, it has a very high nutrient value and lipid content. The oils present are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a variety of positive health effects. Literature shows that poultry meat contains higher levels of these desirable fatty acids when chickens are fed algal supplements. Algae also contain high levels of carotenoids, which, in addition to having nutritive value, provide a more yellow color to the meat, similar to the touted marigold supplements. From an environmental standpoint, algae have a number of benefits, one of which is the relative ease with which it is grown. It has few feed requirements and can be grown on wastewater to remove nutrients prior to discharge or further treatment. It can also be used to scrub carbon dioxide, CO2, from gas streams for a carbon reduction or, at a minimum, a carbon neutral feed. Water used to scrub ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and some amount of CO2 from digester gas can provide both a nutritive value to the algae and a cleaner combustion gas (methane) for energy use.
This project would be a feasibility study in if, how and how much algae could realistically be fed to poultry, in addition to investing the effects of Chitosan on algae feed. The initial steps would consist of a literature review, followed by the growth of small quantities of algae to be fed to 75 chickens, and a nutritional analysis.
Project Contact: Robert Wallace