Right next to a commercial nursery and greenhouse operation on the outskirts of Wooster, paddlewheels keep water constantly moving in four 30-by-200-foot ponds shaped like automotive raceway circuits. The water is deep green and murky.

That’s just how Phil Lane likes it.

Lane is a program manager for Touchstone Research Laboratory, a West Virginia-based company that operates this unusual facility on a stretch of farmland where the remnants of corn and soybean fields are now buried under snow.

And the stuff making the ponds green is another type of crop that could one day grow alongside the more traditional fare occupying Ohio fields: algae.

“Algae can be grown just about anywhere, so we are not competing with farmland for growing food crops,” said Lane, who manages the Wooster algae pilot facility. “Algae can add value to marginal lands, generating a crop that can be turned into biofuel and a variety of bioproducts.”

Algae farming is expanding across the United States and around the world, showing great promise as a fast-growing and efficient source of natural oil for renewable transportation fuel, bio-plastics, food supplements and many other products.