ILA Member News

News Channel 6 Interview with Tamra Fakhoorian-   Duckweed Farmer

Reporter: Mychaela Bruner
Photographer: Justin Jones

Story Created: Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:37 AM                    VIdeo clip

DUBLIN, Ky—It is a small flowering plant with a funny name. It packs enough protein to rival soybeans, but produces eight times more protein per acre. It is called duckweed.

Tamra Fakhoorian runs one of the only duckweed production facilities in the country. "Close your eyes and picture a beautiful blue pond, just substitute the color bright emerald green," said Fakhoorian as she was describing what the pond looks like.

For a little over a year, Fakhoorian has been working to turn this pond into a different shade of color. "This is probably one of the country's first dedicated commercial duckweed farms," said Fakhoorian.

Duckweed is the smallest known plant on the planet. But, Fakhoorian said its purpose is not only for the lovely, green scenery.

"I counted over 80 different uses for it...You can grow it in a low tech setting like I am or harvest it wild and feed it to your hogs, cattle & smaller animals," said Fakhoorian.

Though it is paying off, Fakhoorian said the duckweed farming process has not been easy. "Every road block I hit, it gave me an opportunity to learn so much more. Boy, I feel good," said Fakhoorian.

She said duckweed farming has endless opportunities that she will continue to pursue. Her next step is to find how humans can benefit from duckweed.

"What we're looking for as far as research work goes is that we can take this protein and modify it where it's great for human consumption," said Fakhoorian.

It has been a journey, but Fakhoorian said it is all worth it. "I love the color green... I've proven to myself if I can do it, anybody can do it," said Fakhoorian.

Fakhoorian said people do eat duckweed in other countries for protein. She said it is common to see duckweed in salads, soups and stews.

If you'd like to learn more, click here to visit Fakhoorian's blog.

 ILA Student Member Wins Double Awards for Duckweed Poster

The Little Green Plant That Could: Duckweed as a Renewable and Sustainable Biofuel Feedstock

by Philomena Chu    Rutgers University  05/25/13  

To meet the energy demands of a booming global population and preserve biosphere integrity, we must reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and find a more cost-effective and sustainable energy source. The development of renewable biofuels will aid in overcoming these daunting economic and environmental challenges.

Corn, the main biofuel feedstock in the United States today, has serious drawbacks as an energy source; its high-maintenance cultivation requires significant amounts of fertilizer and freshwater while competing with food crops for arable land. In contrast, the small aquatic plant duckweed has emerged as a highly promising biofuel feedstock. Its composition—high starch and low lignin—is ideal for ethanol production. Furthermore, duckweed does not compete with land crops, grows rapidly, and is easily harvestable.

We are actively constructing a demonstration pipeline to assess the potential of duckweed as a renewable and sustainable crop for ethanol production. Liquid sewage is used as an inexpensive fertilizer source to support duckweed growth, and post-harvest, the cleaned wastewater can be recycled.

Optimization of this new approach involves screening duckweed plants collected from around the world to find a strain that is best suited for ethanol production. However, morphological identification of duckweed species and ecotypes can be difficult, as many appear similar or identical. Thus, we are employing DNA-based methods in the laboratory to develop reliable methods of distinguishing duckweed strains. These efforts will lay the groundwork for future experiments, allowing us to gain much needed insight into basic duckweed biology. See video,
click here...

More Crop Per Drop"  Tedx  by Dr. Imad Saoud, Beirut, Lebanon


Duckweed: New Kid on the Block

Spring 2013 issue of AQUAFEED: Advances in Processing & Formulation
  Volume 5, Issue 1
By Tamra Fakhoorian, Executive Director ILA

There is a growing awareness in aquaculture circles of a new high protein feedstock on
the horizon, one that can be grown sustainably for fish and crustacean production - the
simple, tiny duckweed. While many people are familiar with seeing it float on the surface
of quiet ponds and lagoons, (sometimes in huge numbers due to an excess of waste nutrients)
few have realized its true potential as a high protein and carbohydrate biomass.

Since the 1950s, researchers have experimented with duckweed for applications as animal

feeds, bioplastics, bioenergy, genomics, medicines, and fertilizers. For decades, this versatile
water plant has been wild-harvested and used fresh in integrated fish farming systems
in various Asian countries. In the 1990’s, Paul Skillicorn and team of the PRISM
group in Bangladesh began producing and utilizing pelletized rations containing duckweed
for their tilapia and carp production.

Why the sudden fuss about duckweed? Simply put, it’s the fastest growing vascular plant

in the world, doubling in volume every 16-48 hrs. (Landhold and Khandeler 1987) It has
been calculated that under optimal conditions, one duckweed frond could reproduce
quickly enough to cover an entire water acre in 30 days. Duckweed thrives in fresh as well
as brackish water. (Omara, Bala 2009) Its four genera, Lemna, Spirodela, Wolfia, and
Wolfflia comprise 37 distinct species that grow free-floating or slightly submerged in temperate
water bodies around the globe.          


Call it “fuel without fossils”: ILA member Jonathan Trent is working on a plan to grow new biofuel by farming micro-algae in floating offshore pods that eat wastewater from cities. Hear his team’s bold vision for Project OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) and how it might power the future.

Not only does Trent grow algae for biofuel, he wants to do so by cleansing wastewater and trapping carbon dioxide in the process. And it’s all solar-powered.
Trent works at NASA’s nanotechnology department, where he builds microscopic devices out of proteins from extremophiles — bacteria that live in the world’s harshest environments. It isn’t the logical place to start a biofuel project. But in 2008, after watching enzymes chomp through plant cells, Trent started thinking about biofuels. And, because he has a background in marine biology, he started thinking about algae and the oceans.

Thus was born OMEGA, or the Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae. This technology aims at re-using the wastewater of coastal cities that is currently piped out and disposed into the seas. Fueled by the sun and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the algae eat the waste and produce oils that can be converted to fuel. Unlike growing corn for ethanol, OMEGA doesn’t threaten the world’s food supply.   For more information...

By Ansel Oommen

A little over a centimeter long, the common duckweed, Spirodela polyrrhiza, is often found colonizing ponds and lakes in a carpet of green. With a global distribution, the duckweed family claims the Guinness for some of the smallest, simplest, and fastest growing plants of the botanical world. Yet, despite their unassuming nature, these tiny fronds are making a huge splash in wastewater management.

For decades, major cities have been trying to tackle the growing waste problem with varying levels of success. Population growth and modern farming practices have led to unparalleled amounts of sewage. Add industrial byproducts and the resulting soup is chock full of disease causing pathogens, pesticides, and organic pollutants. Needless to say, it is an environmental health crisis.

Left untreated, these chemicals poison freshwater supply and rob it of oxygen. Large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus (typical of human and animal waste), for example, can trigger algal blooms that choke out aquatic wildlife, turning the water a sickly brown, red, or green. Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency cites wastewater pollution for “frequent occurrences of low dissolved oxygen, fish kills, algal blooms, and bacterial contamination.”

Read more at Living Green Magazine online...

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