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Oceans to Farmland

Apr 06, 2018



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    Farms, the Ocean

    and AlgaeA Sustainable Approach

    Fertility from the Oceans

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    Fertilizing Farmland from the Ocean

    Dr. John Church, Assistant Professor at Thompson River University in Kamloops BCand Chair of the BC Regional Innovation BC Cattle Industry for Sustainability, comesfrom a family with a deep history in farming. This goes back to early days in

    Saskatchewan where his fathers father plowed the once rich farm land for crops. Hespeaks of a time when his father told him about how the seagulls used to follow thetractors. This is a rare occurrence today in Saskatchewan but can still be see closer tothe ocean in BC.

    Plowing a Field in Fraser Valley, BC Canada

    Seagulls gather to prey on insects and worms revealed as a farmer plows afield on a farm in the Fraser Valley. British Columbia, Canada.

    Today, valuable farmland around the world is being depleted of of its once rich nutrients.Currently the only solution to replenish these lands is to dig up Potash and move it to

    where it is needed. This does not seem like a sustainable solution.

    Global Potash Market

    The potash market has been experiencing a rapid growth in the last decade primarily

    due to more demand for food, fiber and feed. This trend has been reinforced by

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    increased demand for biofuels.

    The current potash market is estimated at 50 million tons annually, and is projected to

    grow at a rate of 3-4%.

    Potash is used in 150 countries while only 12 countries produce it. The main producingcountries are Canada, Belarus, Russia, Israel and Jordan. The United States that

    produces only 1,200,000 tonnes a year consumes 5,200,000 tonnes, thus, being one of

    the largest net importers of potash in the world after China, India and Brazil. The total

    global potash mine production in 2006 reached 30 million tonnes. Saskatchewan is the

    largest potash production centre in the world. Several factors contribute to the

    increasing use of potash in the world:

    Rising World Population

    The world's population has been steadily growing at an increasing pace in the second

    half of the 20th century and is expected to reach almost 10 billion people by 2050.

    A rising population consumes more food. In order to meet the increase in demand,

    farmers need to increase the quantity and quality of their crop yields. Improving the

    quality of their fertilizers is the most efficient and realistic way to do this.

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    Increasing Wealth - Better Diets

    The world economy has been expanding at average of 5% per year. However, the

    economies of the developing nations, especially of large countries such as India and

    China have been growing at a rate of 9% and 10% annually. An expanding economy

    means rising wealth level in these countries. With the increasing income, peoplesignificantly improve their diets, especially the intake of meat, which is rich in protein.

    The meat consumption in China, for example, tripled in the last 20 years to 70 million

    tonnes, and is expected to grow further.

    Thus, the feed for animals becomes an important factor. And again potash serves as a

    key ingredient to improve the quantity and quality of feed for livestock.

    Higher Oil Prices, Environmental Concerns and Drive for Alternative Fuels - New

    Demand for Potash (Fertilizer)

    In recent years, crops such as corn and sugar cane have found new applications, in the

    production of biofuels. High oil prices, increasing concerns about carbon emissions and

    subsequent drive to use more alternative fuels has led to the boom in the ethanol and

    biodiesel use as alternative energy sources. These biofuels are produced from crops

    such as sugar cane, corn, oil palm, soybeans etc. As of April 2009 potash prices

    reached $1,000 per ton!

    To increase the yield of these crops from the ever decreasing amount of

    agricultural lands requires more use of fertilizers. Also, this new demand for

    crops puts an upward pressure on crop prices. This directly increases the

    demand for potash Fertilizer.

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    Decreasing Available Arable (Fertile) Land

    The soaring global population exerts another pressure point. All these new people have

    to live somewhere. As the cities and the suburbs continue to sprawl, there's less arable

    [fertile] land to grow food on.

    Of the earth's 57 million square miles of land, approximately 8 million square miles are

    currently arable. However, arable land is being lost at the rate of about 40,000 square

    miles a year. A major element of arable land loss comes from deforestation.

    The end result of all this is that the remaining farm land needs to be more productive.

    And there is only one way this can be accomplished: with fertilizer. And until now there

    has been no substitute for potash in fertilizer. Canadian Pacific Algae Inc. captures

    Algae in Seawater and grows it to an optimum level which produces an excellent


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    Uses of Potash

    Potash has three main uses: fertilizer, livestock feed supplements and industrial

    processes. 95% of world's potash is used in fertilizers, while the rest is used for feedsupplements and industrial production.

    Potash is a key ingredient in fertilizers that enhances water retention of plants,

    increases crop yields and plants' disease resistance. In feed supplements, the key

    function of potash is to contribute to animal growth and milk production.

    Functions of Potash

    Potassium fulfills numerous vital functions in various processes in plants, animals and

    humans. For adequate nutrient supply of potassium, soil reserves are essentially

    required, which commonly contain more potassium than any other nutrient, including


    For an adult human being, approximately 2 grams of potassium (K) is required per day,

    even though a typical person will take in 2.8-4.5 grams/day. There is no health risks

    associated with potassium. The rich sources of this nutrient in human diet are milk, fruitjuice, root vegetables and bananas.

    Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are three of the most essential nutrients that a

    plant needs to grow. Potash plays an important role in helping plants to absorb

    potassium required to thrive.

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    The price of Potash continues to rise as world demand increases. This demand will

    continue for reasons explained earlier in the Global Potash Market section of this


    There are no known substitutes for potash.... Until NOW!

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    Algae, a Backgrounder

    It is estimated that between 70% and 80% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is producedby marine plants . Nearly all marine plants are single celled, photosynthetic algae. Even

    marine seaweed is many times colonial algae. They are a bunch of single cells trying tolook like a big plant (see seaweed photo), but they are really individuals.

    We need marine algae. 70% to 80% of all the oxygen we breathe comes from algae.Without them we would be nearing the end of our existence. It is popular belief the treesand other land plants our what produce our oxygen. Well, trees and other land plantsare very important, no doubt about it. But for pure survival, we couldn't make it withoutalgae.

    Why does so much of our oxygen come from algae? Well, first of all, remember that theoceans cover about 71% of this planet and land is only about 29%. If we assume thatevery square mile of the ocean produces as much oxygen as every square mile of land,then this makes sense. The oceans would produce about 71% and the land 29% of theoxygen we breathe. Looks like we are in the ballpark don't you think?

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    An Image From NASA

    Now the question is, "Are the oceans, indeed, as productive as the land?" At first youmight not think so, after all when you look at the land there are trees and bushes and

    grass and all kinds of plants growing. They must crank out oxygen. They do, but alsoremember that there are many places on land that don't have much in the way of plants.How about Antarctica or the Sahara Desert along with many others? These are prettygood sized chunks of real estate where plants are few and far between. How muchoxygen is being pumped out in these areas?

    I would venture to say there's not enough to keep a pack of wild hamsters (ever seenwild hamsters?) going for very long. So, some areas on land have an abundance ofplants and produce a large quantity of oxygen while others have very few plants andproduce very little.

    The s

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