REFILE-As iron ore boom ends, Australia’s Pilbara targets tourists, farmers, algae – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – December 8, 2015)

PORT HEDLAND, Australia, Dec 8 Aqua farms growing super foods could soon materialise in the rust-red dust of the Australian outback, alongside wheat fields, haystacks and cattle herds, as tumbling iron prices drive the minerals-rich Pilbara region to transform itself.

On a small patch of desert 250 kms (155 miles) south of the Pilbara’s Port Hedland, InterClinical Laboratories has started Plankton Farms to propagate a type of micro-algae called Dunaliella salina, reknowned for its antioxidant properties.

Work on the algae farms is in its infancy but the green micro-algae, which grows naturally in Australian salt lakes, could one day benefit nutrient-deficient people worldwide, according to InterClinical’s founder Ian Tracton.

“We were looking for a place with lots of sunny, cloudless, hot days and that’s what the Pilbara offers,” Tracton said.

“We’re the only flower in the area, surrounded by the resources industry just about everywhere you look.”

A further 200 kms (125 miles) inland, agronomists are conducting trials using water from mines to grow crops for use as biofuels and cattle feed, sometimes in partnership with the mining companies.

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