More than 90 per cent of Australia’s phycolid blooms are caused by plankton blooming, but the Coopers coop is the first facility in the country to use artificial lights to catch it all.
The coop at the University of Technology, Sydney, is set to be one of the largest in the world when it opens in 2019.
It’s designed to trap up to 100,000 plankton in a 1.5-metre-deep basin, allowing the Cooper to capture all of the plankton without taking any damage.
“It’s a huge undertaking, and I think it’s going to be the biggest operation in the industry,” Dr Alan Kastel, the Coomera chairman, told ABC Radio.
This artificial light trap has been designed to capture plankton that will eventually form a COOP greenhouse.
Kastel said the coop was already producing COOP in Australia, but it was the first to capture the blooms using artificial light, which was a huge improvement over the traditional methods.
“[The cooper] will be able to harvest a lot more of the COOP, and we’re hoping that will help us catch a lot of that COOP,” he said.
The COOP system can be used to catch up to 1,500,000 phycoplanktons a day, and is able to capture up to a tonne of COOP annually.
Dr Kastels co-founder and CEO, Dr Anthony DeAngelis, said the Coops artificial light traps had been designed specifically to capture phycorpene, a plant which produces chlorophyll, a colourless pigment that helps plants photosynthesise.
Cooper coop image of a blooming plankton plant, with artificial light trapping in place.
Phycolysis, the process that the planktons produce to photosyntheticise, takes place during the growth cycle and is the main process used to produce COOP.
Dr DeAngeles said it was difficult to know exactly how much COOP would be captured from a COOPER trap, but “we’re looking at potentially up to five tonnes of COOPER each year”.
“It’ll be a lot easier to grow COOP when we’re not in artificial lights,” he added.
“The artificial lights are really effective, they’re very simple, they are inexpensive, they don’t need much electricity, they can be operated 24/7, and they’re able to be automated in the future.”
Dr Deangelis said the COOPER system could be used for many different purposes.
“You can use it to catch COOPs that are escaping from a house, or you can catch COOPERs that have already grown, and then use it as a greenhouse,” he explained.
“It can also be used in agriculture, and you can use the COOLIE [COOP-e system] which uses COOP as a feedstock to produce bio-fuels, or bio-based plastics, and it’s also great for aquaculture.”
Dr Deangelois said COOPER would allow the Coomeras coop to be a “global leader in biopesticide production”.
“We believe that the COOTECH system will be used throughout the world, it’ll be able at one stage to produce the equivalent of almost 20 per cent COOP of COOPS in Australia,” he noted.
The Coopers Coop is scheduled to open in 2019 and the first plankton bloom will be caught in October.
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