Abitha, a Ph.D student at the IISc, has come up with Algiculture, a technique to grow paddy along with an oil-producing algae, helping farmers earn additional income

Good news for paddy farmers! They can now doubly benefit by growing an additional crop without incurring additional cost, apart from contributing to the nation’s fuel needs.

A student of Ph.D at the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore, has devised a technique to grow paddy along with an oil-producing algae, which helps farmers earn additional income.

No additional land

Termed ‘Algiculture’, it is a sustainable method of algae cultivation in paddy fields. The interesting part is that it requires no additional land, water or nutrients.

“Algiculture has the potential to benefit farming, especially in semi-arid regions, by offering an opportunity to farmers to attempt multiple-cropping and simultaneous generation of algal bio-fuel that provides green energy,” says Abitha, the student.

While paddy grows to be harvested, the new method allows farmers to raise an additional 100 kg algae in a hectare.

In two months, it produces nearly six tonnes of algae that can be used as bio-fuel in a number of ways, as algae is looked upon as a source of renewable bio-fuel.

Abitha’s path-breaking project was the second runner-up at the innovation competition, ‘Power of Shunya: Challenge for Zero’, organised by DuPont. She teamed up with Vikas Gujral from Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, to win the Rs. 2.5 lakh prize money.

In the new technique, algae rise as floating ‘flocs’ that are harvested every afternoon and sent for drying, oil extraction and cattle feed supplement. The dung is finally deposited in the paddy field for higher sustainability.

Pilot project

Abitha has successfully completed a pilot project at Tumkur in Karnataka. Following its success, all farmers in the area are now keen to follow it, as it is not only financially beneficial but also enriches their land with nutrients.

Meeting fuel needs

According to her, paddy is cultivated in 44 million hectares in the country, and even if 17 per cent of it is used for ‘algiculture’, India’s fuel needs can be met with no additional energy input.

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