BrainBotics has just been granted a project by EcoInnovation under the Ministry of the Environment. In this project, we will investigate the commercial value and environmental impact of collecting excess algae (aquatic biomass) with robot technology before the biomass begins to decompose.
Collecting seaweed in the water, before it starts to decompose, will avoid emissions of GHG (CH4) which have a high CO2 equivalent and remove excess nutrient (phosphorous & nitrogen) from the ecosystem up to 10 times more efficiently than when seaweed decays on the coastline. Removal of 10.000 tons fresh seaweed avoids methane emissions by an estimated 5.422 tons CO2e and removes 400 tons nitrogen and five tons phosphorous, and lead to additional CO2 reduction when using algae as a sustainable raw material.
Increasing emissions of fertilizers have led to eutrophication and an increased bloom of algae in lakes, fjords and the world’s oceans. When algae are washed up on the beach and decompose, they emit greenhouse gases including CO2, toxins and cause strong odor nuisances in local areas. In addition, high concentrations of algae damage marine ecosystems and adversely affect the fishing and tourism industries, as well as a number of related industries. To avoid this, manual collection of washed-up algae takes place at beaches and coasts.
Collection today is often based on construction machinery that collects biomass of little or no economic value due to the level of degradation and as the biomass has been mixed with sand and other materials. If the biomass is sufficiently fresh and clean, it can be used as a raw material in several product chains, e.g. as biodegradable packaging, for animal feed and as fertilizer. In less pure form, the biomass can be used as a building material, textile and as a CO2 neutral bioenergy source or biochar. Collecting mass deposits of algae has the positive effect that it provides better conditions for reduced local oxygen depletion as well as increased biodiversity in the local benthic fauna, as one removes nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), contained in the seaweed biomass from the marine environment.