It's feeding time and the fish at the Neptune Industries fish farm are hungry. The hybrid stripe bass are being raised in Florida City for all of us to eat.But, there's more."Every time you feed a pound of feed to fish, they're going to produce a pound of waste," explained Sal Cherch, Neptune's Chief Operating Officer. "That pound of waste now comes out of that tank, it's captured, it's treated and that waste becomes fertilizer for biodiesel algae."
That's right, here they're putting fish waste to good use. In this case, a pilot project to create algae that can one day fuel your car. The algae's growing in so-called "floating socks" in a one-time rock quarry.Neptune Industry President Ernie Papadoyianis showed us the site."Our floating sock system, we have algae circulating so it gets the fish waste form the aquasphere system, it gets the sunlight and it gets carbon dioxide from a carbon dioxide tank," he said.It takes only a week for the algae to grow. In fact, their plan is to have the whole lake (former quarry) producing algae that can be turned into biofuels. All thanks to the fish they farm."That algae is harvested, it's pressed, just like olives would be pressed for their oil," explained Papadoyianis. "And, a very fine quality oil is derived from algae that is processed and used to power vehicles."A far cry from an oil field, the project site holds the promise of a fuel that doesn't contaminate and works as well, if not better, than petrofuel.The work at the Florida City location is funded by a state Farm to Fuel grant that helps local farmers compete in the exploding biofuel market. Neptune Industries will test several strains of algae to find the one that grows the fastest in the South Florida climate and produces the most oil."Algae is going to be the No. 1 biofuel of the future. It's approximately 30 times greater in oil production in a per acre basis that corn," Papadoyianis said. "The algae is far more efficient. And, if we can use it in water based applications, we're not using valuable farmland to do it."The hope is to convert the oil into eco-friendly biodiesel locally, and create a market for it. Miami-Dade Transit is planning to use a biodiesel mix for its buses."You take the fuel utilized in Miami-Dade County -- by consumers, by the government -- it's a huge number," said Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager Charles LaPradd. "It all has to be brought in. If we would supply even a quarter of that with local production, it just puts money into our pockets."