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Ben Hokin

Melbourne Polytechnic Bachelor of Aquaculture graduate, Ben Hokin, always thought he’d end up working with fish.

Thanks to the skills he acquired during his degree and industry contacts developed by Melbourne Polytechnic’s Aquaculture staff he’s now contributing to the creation of greener fuels from the most unlikely of sources – algae!

Aquaculture – a career with a sustainable future

Melbourne Polytechnic Bachelor of Aquaculture graduate, Ben Hokin, always thought he’d end up working with fish but now he’s contributing to the creation of greener fuels from the most unlikely of sources – algae!

Ben completed the Bachelor of Aquaculture at Melbourne Polytechnic in 2009 and is now working in Research and Development for Melbourne-based Fuji Fuels as a Technical Advisor for the cultivation of micro algae. In particular, Ben is focusing on methods for the extraction of lipids (oils) from the cells of algae which can then be processed into biofuels for the transport industry.

Ben says fuels derived from algae are greener because, as algae grow, it captures carbon which therefore neutralises any carbon emissions created when the fuel is burnt.

While Ben initially thought his Aquaculture Degree would lead to working in commercial fish harvesting, he says that working on the commercial applications of algae still fulfils many of the reasons that lead him to study Aquaculture.

“I always wanted to work in research with new technology and I’m doing that now but with algae instead of fish,” says Ben. “I think there’s a real future in algae in terms of its potential for a variety of industries.”

Ben says that his Melbourne Polytechnic course work plus the industry connections of his Melbourne Polytechnic final year project supervisor really helped to secure the role at Fuji Fuels.

“I gained quite a lot of practical experience completing the algology subject in the Aquaculture laboratory at Melbourne Polytechnic where we learned techniques for growing different algae. Also, during my final year at Melbourne Polytechnic, I completed a project that focused on harvesting and extraction techniques for microalgae.”

Ben’s Melbourne Polytechnic project supervisor, Dr. Sadiqul Awal, recognised his student’s skills and enthusiasm and introduced him to the management at Fuji Fuels who offered Ben casual work while he was completing the third year of his degree. Ben now has a full-time position with Fuji Fuels where he works as part of a small team that also includes Engineers and Chemical Engineers.

Ben says the goal of the Fuji Fuels project is the commercial scale cultivation and extraction of oils from microalgae for use in multiple industries. “I think our results are equal to or better than what’s being done elsewhere in Australia,” says Ben. “In addition to the experience I gained at NMIT in working with microalgae, the training I received during my degree provided me with good foundations for my current role, particularly in the areas of preparing scientific literature reviews and managing factors affecting aquatic environments such a pH levels, temperature and salinity.”

Melbourne Polytechnic offers the Bachelor of Aquaculture as well as Certificate II and III courses in the Seafood Industry.


Course

Bachelor of Aquaculture