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Do You Know What Sea Lettuce is and What it is Good For?

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Sea lettuce is an algae, which thrives in an excess of nutrients, for examples where farm runoffs (fertilizer nitrates) or golf course maintenance flow into the ocean. When sea lettuce dies off and decomposes, it uses up all the oxygen, killing plants and fish in the process and in its vacinity. 

To find a solution for this problem, Mike Cassidy, owner of Transcon International Ltd., contacted Bishnu Acharya, an assistant professor at the UPEI School of Sustainable Design Engineering, and international graduate student Ankita Shrestha to use their expertise and to perform the research.

Cassidy has been working on the problem of sea lettuce since 2011, has purchased a stainless steel harvester, which resembled a grain combine, to remove the invasive plant from tributaries. With the abundant amount of raw material he knew that he had to look for a value-added product to deal with the sea lettuce. 

One thought was to recover the energy from the plant, which needs to be dried and Dr. Acharya and Ms. Shrestha came up with a more efficient and cost-effective process, called hydrothermal processing, which uses reduced heat and mild pressure. Any carbon in the sea lettuce is turned into char, which can be used for energy and soil application, a much needed product in PEI's low organic-matter soil. Along with the hydrochar, the process divides the sea lettuce into a biogas, which can be used in energy application, and a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used for agricultural application.

 

Springboard's member Synapse Inc., turning UPEI ideas into solutions, helped to prepare a successful proposal for a Mitacs Accelerate research internship, valued at $30,000.

To read the full article in The Guardian, click here.

Photo by Bjørn Tore Økland on Unsplash