Engaging Ethiopian Students to Explore the Viability of Cyanobacterial Bio-fertilizer Production to Improve Soil Fertility and Crop Yields in Africa

Colorado State University, 2010 - $45,200

Soil fertility depletion on small farms is a fundamental cause of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in large parts of the developing world. Africa has the lowest fertilizer use rates in the world, leading to declining yields and incomes.

This project explores the use of locally grown cyanobacterial bio-fertilizer to empower people and improve soil fertility, crop yields, and living standards in Ethiopia. Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) are nearly ubiquitous in nature due to their unique ability to carry out both photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation. Rice farmers in Asia have grown cyanobacteria in their paddies for centuries to improve yield, but to be of value to all farmers, this practice must be adapted so that it can be applied to a variety of crops.

This team proposes a new approach to an ancient concept: growing cyanobacteria in outdoor ponds on-farm and harvesting them for use as a fertilizer that can be applied to any crop. The team will utilize an existing collaboration with Hawassa University in Ethiopia to research the feasibility of scalable bio-fertilizer production in that country, as well as pave the way for large-scale implementation by Ethiopian entrepreneurs.


This team has incorporated Thin Air Nitrogen Solutions LLC and launched a web site (May 2012).