Floating Cattail Bio-platforms
In 2015, Manitoba`s Curry Industries established a partnership with the Rural Municipality of Taché, the Manitoba Conservation District Association (MCDA), Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI), the National Research Council (NRC), Red River College as well as Providence University College to launch an experiment in Otterburne, MB in order to determine if floating cattail bio-platforms can be used to treat wastewater in municipal lagoons, among other bodies of water.
The cattail bio-platform harvesting system pilot project was thus initiated to develop and evaluate an innovative new technology for the removal of phosphorus from natural aquatic ecosystems as well as wastewater lagoons, which may eventually lead to its eventual commercial deployment as well as its implementation in other municipalities across Manitoba and eventually other Canadian provinces.
The prototype floating cattail bio-platforms have been designed and built by Winnipeg’s Curry Industries Ltd. The concept includes the planting of cattail plugs into floating trays that are then positioned in a larger floatation frame. The bio-platform is then deployed in the marsh (or lagoon/retention pond) and, once the plants are fully grown, the platform is towed back to shore for harvesting.
As for the sequestered nutrients that are extracted from the cattails, options for biomass harvesting are being explored including its potential as a biofuel or feedstock, and also as a carbon source for composting. Once the cattails can begin to be harvested on a larger commercial scale, they could be processed into small cubes or pellets that could be burned to provide heat, for example.
This could turn out to be an especially useful alternative to coal, as the province`s ban on coal used for heating purposes will come into effect on July 1, 2017. As such, floating cattail bio-platforms could well end up providing Manitobans with an innovative biomass heat source similar to that of wood.
There are potentially several other applications for this technology, including the restoration of degraded natural wetlands, the sequestration and removal of nutrients from natural bodies of water and urban storm water retention ponds, in addition to the treatment of municipal wastewater.
The bio-platforms could also provide the following additional benefits: 1) They may help to dissipate waves and help to promote long-term sediment accretion that would enable natural vegetation to grow; 2) They may provide a restored habitat for wildlife and fish and 3) They could provide a vehicle for public education and engagement as concerns wetlands restoration.
The cattail bio-platform harvesting system pilot project is slated to get underway in April of 2016, and be completed by the end of October 2018.