Desert Shrimp Farmers Switch to Algae

It seems like everyone is getting in on the algae-to-fuel business. Lately, it’s shrimp farmers from the Arizona desert. Desert Sweet Shrimp, a shrimping aquaculture venture founded in 1995, is in the process of transitioning to become Desert Sweet Biofuels. The company officially launched its algae-to-biodiesel business this weekend, and reportedly hopes to start producing biodiesel in the next three to four months.

“Shrimp farmers don’t raise shrimp, they raise algae,” Gary Wood, owner of Desert Sweet Shrimp, explained to Red Orbit. But there’s more to making biodiesel than simply growing algae. Wood is still experimenting to see what strain of algae will work best. While over a dozen startups have raised millions of dollars to perfect their algae production and squeezing methods, Desert Sweet doesn’t appear to have raised a lot of venture capital. The company is just using its shrimp husbandry know-how to help grow its feedstock for its new line of business.

Desert Sweet hopes to be able to produce biodiesel for $3 a gallon from its 50 aquaculture ponds. Located in Gila Bend, Ariz., warm nights and plentiful sunshine should allow rapid algae growth, enough to produce 5,000 gallons of biofuel per acre in two years, the company hopes. (For skeptics wondering how green raising shrimp in the desert is, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program may calm your fears.) Whether these production margins and scale are big enough to support a smaller player in the nascent algae-to-biofuel business has yet to be seen.

Images courtesy of Desert Sweet Biofuels.