North Korea could be growing algae in an attempt to diversify its energy resources and become more independent.
That’s the suggestion from 38 North, part of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, which claims a blooming algae industry could allow the isolated nation to “mitigate the negative effects of sanctions both on the country’s energy supply and food security”.
The group adds the country has been installing the necessary infrastructure to grow plantlike organisms such as kelp and spirulina since the turn of the millennium but says satellite imaging shows these facilities are now becoming increasingly large and complex.
The group estimates 2,851 tons of algae biomass could be produced each year, which could be converted to the equivalent of more than 4,000 barrels of oil.
Historically China has been North Korea’s primary trading partner but recently banned certain energy exports to comply with UN rules.
38 North says algae can be used to create biofuels, foods and fertilisers – North Korea lacks its own domestic petroleum reserves and is reportedly plagued by food shortages as a result of agricultural deficiencies.