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Duckweed: A blessing more than a menace

Posted June 5, 2018

Underrated and considered as the world’s smallest flowering plant, duckweed can multiply in bunches in just a small time frame. It can be a menace or a blessing in disguise, and it depends on what attributes you are looking into.

Duckweed. Image credit: Gellinger via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Benefits of duckweed

The ability of duckweed to grow and multiply in numbers is one of its unique characteristics. According to Lake Restoration, a new duckweed plant can produce another one in a span of 24 hours. For the farmers who are raising duckweed, this brings good news.

Aside from its fast-producing abilities, duckweed is also a good source of protein. With an expected shortage of protein within the next 10 years, experts are now studying if duckweed can serve as an alternative protein source. The plant can live on water, pond, lakes and slow-moving streams, which is also one of its assets since it does not require land area.

“It does not make use of farming land and it can grow in a basin on the farm or in a simple greenhouse on diluted manure. It grows very rapidly and contains a lot of protein. One hectare of duckweed produces just as much protein as ten hectares of soy,” says researcher Ingrid van der Meer.

Studies are now being done on how duckweed can be harnessed to fit animal and human consumption.

Disadvantages of duckweed

When uncontrolled, they can pose a challenge to marine life. When it covers an entire pond, it depletes fish and other organisms of oxygen and sunlight. The plant can also withstand extreme conditions such as a wide range pH and high temperatures. Because of this, duckweed cannot be contained naturally. Manual labor is required or application of scientific ways to manage it. Diquat herbicide can effectively control the abundance of duckweed, but environmentalists will frown to this approach.

Solution to duckweed dilemma

One of the solutions to the growing concern of controlling duckweed’s proliferation is proposed by Greenbelt Resources Corp. (OTCMKTS:GRCO). GRCO is a producer of sustainable energy production systems, and they believe duckweed can be harnessed to become an energy source.

GRCO has been brought in for its expertise by the Andrew J Young Foundation (AYF) for the “Duckweed Project,” which was submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) last year. The good news is that the first phase of the project has now started after getting the green light from the USDA.

This project will utilize duckweed as a feedstock and use the Greenbelt ECOsystem technology that will convert it into bioethanol and protein concentrate.

This is not the first time that GRCO has proven itself as an innovator in the agriculture industry. Their “Eco-Friendly Technology” has earned the “Ecolabel” status from the Indonesian government after helping the country with its food waste management problems.

The Biorefinery Centre has also studied the potential of duckweed biomass conversion to ethanol. The presence of fermentable sugars in duckweed makes it ideal for ethanol. The study suggests it can be done in four steps: analysis of duckweed, how to turn its biomass to fermentable sugars, optimization of enzymatic saccharification, and lastly, fermentation of ethanol yield.

Greenbelt Resources Corp. is one of the companies which aim to change the world one step at a time. Thinking of how a simple problem such as duckweed can be transformed into a solution is a testament to innovation of GRCO. The whole world can benefit from the latest technology of GRCO, which aims to conserve the environment and help solve food shortage.

Written by Anna Reyes

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