By Ryan Randazzo
Arizona Republic (with 2-min. video)
A small Gila Bend farm that once found unlikely success growing shrimp in the desert is working on another unusual business venture – turning farm waste into electricity and growing algae for fuel.
Algae contains oil and can be processed into fuels similar to diesel or jet fuel, but most researchers have not figured out how to do that for less than about $20 a gallon, which is not competitive with current fuel prices.
Desert Sweet Shrimp has won international notoriety for the thousands of pounds of shrimp per acre they can coax from 60 acres of desert ponds.
Owner Gary Wood says farming experience will help his team crack the economics of making fuel from algae, which can be raised similar to shrimp.
The farm ships fresh crustaceans to fancy restaurants and high-end grocers, not to mention smaller shrimp grown just for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where the notoriously picky otters are reportedly big fans.
But competition from inexpensive frozen shrimp from China has taken a bite out of business in the past three years, Wood said. And the recession has driven alfalfa prices so low the farm is losing money on every acre it harvests.
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