Deriving a new biobased product from wastewater: Production of a slow release algal-based fertilizer.

Period of Performance: 07/21/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ames, IA 50010
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The release of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus into our natural waterbodies is a major issue negatively impacting the United States environmentally and economically. It is estimated that it costs the Gulf Coast fishing industry approximately $82 million per year. This issue is caused by misplaced nutrients. This project uses an algae-based treatment system to remove nutrients from a place they are unwanted (in wastewater) and convert them into a product (fertilizer) that can be placed where they are wanted. The fertilizer produced in this project is considered a slow-release fertilizer capable of reducing nutrient runoff from fields, gardens, and lawns, which are major contributors of nutrients in our natural waterbodies.Algal-based treatment is considered a "green," sustainable treatment platform capable of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, while removing pollutants from wastewater. Currently, algal treatment systems are not feasible due to the high cost of operation. Our company recently invented the revolving algal biofilm (RAB) system, a game changing technology capable of drastically decreasing the cost of algal treatment.In this study we will evaluate nutrient the removal capacity of our pilot-scale RAB treatment system at industrial wastewater producers. The algae produced during treatment will be converted into a slow-release fertilizer via a pelletization process. This fertilizer will be evaluated for its nutrient release properties to determine its value as a slow-release, organic fertilizer. Lastly, the costs and energy inputs to produce an algal-based fertilizer will be assessed. Cumulatively this project will validate both the RAB system and the pelletization process as a viable option for treating nutrients in the $183 billion wastewater treatment market.