NRF Member Story: Don Jones, Essential Greens A New Sustainable Microalgae Farming Industry for the Northern Rivers Region
“I can’t do that” is not a phrase that you will hear Don Jones utter…ever.
Don is the General Manager and Executive Director of emerging business Essential Greens Pty Ltd which is based in the Tweed region of Northern Rivers NSW. Don has over 40 years of experience in Engineering and Architectural Design within the construction industry living and working in interesting and exotic locales such as Malaysia, Bougainville Island in PNG, Hong Kong and western Qld!
His latest base & business adventure is in the Tweed region of Northern Rivers NSW where he, his family and business partners are establishing a ground-breaking new venture called Essential Greens where they are developing production systems to commercialise microalgae products.
So why produce microalgae products?
Don explains that firstly, there are the sustainability credentials of algae farming, which include an environmentally friendly process which uses tidal marine water, CO2, nutrients and sunlight.
Don says algae also offers many market opportunities. Microalgae farming is a sustainable and reliable source of highly nutritious food, especially when it comes to the production of protein. Algae requires less land or water than traditional alternatives and are a rich source of essential amino acids. It can also be used to produce food (for humans and pets), medicine, fuels, plastics, and other products. With the Essential Greens business, the initial focus will be on the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, fish feed and food supplement market segments. It’s huge overseas and in Australia we are just playing catch up.
“We have designed the production and harvesting systems to be suitable for a wide variety of microalgae: Haematococcus, Spirulina and Chlorella. These may not be household names at the moment, but we hope will be in a few years’ time and all have well established markets for the whole algae and or their extracts. It also includes Nannochloropsis which is said to be one of the most efficient species for the production of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Omega-3 and a host of other phytonutrients. “
Why in the Tweed?
Don explains that the location of the farm in the Tweed is ideal as it provides optimal temperate conditions year-round and allows access to fresh and salt water. This enables a wide variety of species to be grown.
Always future thinking, Don says, “Algae farming will save us. Without algae there would be no oxygen. It is the beginning of the food chain. What is so exciting is that the productivity of Essential Greens Algae Farming is ten times more productive per land area than other food crops. The system uses tidal water and has no need for fresh water, making it the most sustainable and environmentally friendly production system possible.”
So, what are the next steps for Don and his business partners in setting up the first microalgae farming in the Northern Rivers? Don has done years and years of work getting to this stage and is now getting ready to commence construction of the site. At this stage the project is ready to commence the first and second stage of construction which Don estimates will take approximately two years.
“We have partnered with the scientists at the University of Queensland with a Research Agreement for the production of Algae and also with Sydney University of Technology and Flinders University. We have approval to develop land for this aquaculture farming and associated processing facility, and we’re now getting ready to commence construction this year. We hope to be shovel ready by July this year”, says Don.
We look forward to hearing more about Essential Green’s development in this region and all of their nutritious microalgae products in the future! Watch this space!!