How algae microfarms can help transform our food culture by growing abundant healthy food in a very small area and extend the growing season, affordably. Home, Community and Small Algae Microfarms Most common question over the past 35 years: “Can we grow algae at home or in our communities?. Will algae microfarms grow new superfoods for urban and rooftop The first Pacific Northwest spirulina microfarm near Olympia Washington.

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Evolution of the algae industry Over akgae past 40 years, worldwide algae companies have produced high value food and feed products, supplements and nutraceuticals. More recently, well-funded ventures are attempting to develop commercial biofuels. These will require huge investments to achieve necessary economies of scale. Large scale business models require algae experts and PhDs on location, with expensive staffing and sophisticated infrastructure. More interest in smaller, scalable business models is emerging.

Evolving from projects in developing world mlcrofarms, algaepreneurs in France have been growing spirulina algae in small outdoor greenhouses. Automated smart technology combined with modular growing systems may soon make it feasible to successfully deploy algae microfarms and photobioreactors anywhere in the world without onsite expert personnel.

Algae microfarks a productivity breakthrough An algae production system can be an environmentally sound green food machine. Biomass can double every 2 to 5 days. With high protein algae like spirulina, this productivity breakthrough can yield over 20 times more protein than soybeans on the same area, 40 times corn and times beef. Other microalgae have even higher productivity. The last 30 years progress in algae technology is remarkable.

Algaepreneurs and the Microfarm Movement in France

Successful algae cultivation requires a more ecological approach than industrial agriculture. As a living culture, if one factor changes in an algae system, the entire environment changes very quickly.

Because algae grow so fast, the result can be seen in hours or days, not seasons or years like in conventional agriculture. Algae scientists balance system ecology to keep out weed algae and zooplankton algae eaters without using pesticides or herbicides.

Algae cultivation is alyae new addition to ecological food production. Some envision huge centralized algae farms producing food and energy on a vast scale.

But others see networks of smaller farms.

Scalable Algae Microfarms Archives | Algae Industry Magazine Algae Industry Magazine

Ecological communities can combine algae and aquaponics with organic gardens. Local food production avoids costs of transportation fuels and multi-level distribution along the value chain in the current food system. A higher portion of the value of locally grown food is returned to the grower, encouraging local food producers, creating greater income equality and local self-sufficiency for a more just and stable social fabric. In fact, small-scale algae farming has been tested for 30 years all over the world.


Innovative, inexpensive and efficient small systems have been operating in villages in the developing world. In France there are algae microfarmers and a school curriculum for growing algae and these small growers are selling their own products directly in their local region. Soon, remote sensors linked with cell phone apps may assist the basic functions of algae culture health monitoring and diagnosis. This will allow local algae growers to consult with remotely located algae experts on how to maintain a healthy algae culture in their small production micrifarms.

Growing food in cities and urban areas may become critical as fuel costs rise, making transported food increasingly expensive. On a small land area, a community could meet a portion of its food requirements from micgofarms, freeing cropland for community recreation or reforestation.

Thousands of algae species cover the earth There may be more thanspecies of algae, living everywhere. They jicrofarms in size from a single cell algxe giant kelp over feet long.

Most algae live off sunlight through photosynthesis, but some live off organic matter like bacteria. A few are being commercially developed for food, feed or fuel.

Microscopic portraits of eight commercial microalgae. Spirulina has been the most widely cultivated algae since the s. Thousands of tons have been sold each year for the past 40 years as a slgae and feed supplement. Chlorella was the first microalgae to be commercially cultivated beginning in the s and sold as a food supplement. Outdoor farms micofarms Taiwan, Southern Japan and Indonesia produce much of the world supply.

Chlorella is also grown commercially in closed indoor production systems. Dunaliella thrives in water even saltier than the ocean in places like Australia and Israel. Too salty to be eaten as a whole food, its beta carotene is extracted as an oil or powder and sold as a food supplement, antioxidant and color for aquaculture feeds.

Haematococcus is grown in both outdoor ponds and closed systems for astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment, microfarsm as a fish feed supplement to color salmon flesh and as a human anti-oxidant food supplement. Schizochytrium is a marine microalgae grown in vats by fermentation, developed as a source of docosahexaenoic acid DHAused as a supplement in a wide variety of infant formulas, food and beverages and animal feed products.

Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is a nitrogen-fixing blue-green algae.

Harvested from Klamath Lake in Oregon, it is sold a food supplement. Botryococcus braunii is being commercialized for algae biofuel. Nannochloropsis is being commercialized for biofuel and nutritional omega-3 oil.

Going big — large scale algae cultivation brings big risks Big algae production micgofarms start small. Ideas migrate to laboratory research and then to small demonstration systems. After success growing in small systems, companies scale up to larger production to achieve economies of scale.

If commercial algae production works, and the product finds a market, at some point, revenues will exceed break-even and variable costs, and over time, repay algaae original investment. For large ventures, with high investment and operating micorfarms, the question is- what size will it really take to make a profit?


Algae production farms for high value food and feed supplements, operating since the s, such as Earthrise Nutritionals in California and Cyanotech in Hawaii, ranged up to 50 hectares in area. Today, algae biofuel ventures are looking to scale up from to hectares and even larger to achieve the economies of scale to be worthwhile.

Here are artist conceptions of outdoor algae microfarrms farms of the future. One of the first large scale algae biofuel farms is now underway. Sapphire Energy has announced the first phase of their commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility is operational in Columbus, New Mexico.

Spirulina Source » Why Microfarms Are Emerging

Micrfoarms, the cultivation area consists of 1. At completion, Sapphire projects the acres hectares of algae cultivation ponds and processing facilities will produce 1.

Building at this scale is a substantial investment risk. Beyond the uncertainties of developing novel algae systems, the high monthly costs for laboratory, technical and operations staff represent a big nut to cover. Some large algae ventures have succeeded, but many more have failed over the past 40 years. Staying small — the first microfarms are growing spirulina algae Parallel to large scale commercial farms has been the evolution of village scale algae systems, primarily in the developing world in Africa and Asia.

Spirulina has been most commonly adopted and there are now farms all over the world, perhaps in as many as 40 countries. It has these six advantages: Traditionally consumed and proven safe. Significant scientific research on health and medical benefits.

Existing global market developed by large commercial farms. Low cost of entry for small scale production. However with greater understanding of how to control and cultivate other high value algae and the use of automated systems, it is likely that other types of algae will become candidates for small-scale cultivation in the near future. In Africa, village projects were micorfarms by humanitarian agae from Europe, Dr. Ripley Fox and Antenna Technologies. Half Moon Bay Farm.

Algae Microfarms

Visions of Our Future. Imagine Our Algae Future. Why Microfarms Are Emerging Evolution of the algae industry Over the past 40 years, worldwide algae companies have produced high value food and feed products, supplements and nutraceuticals.

First Prize Winners in the International Algae Competition for algae production systems Algae represent a productivity breakthrough An algae production system can be an environmentally sound green food machine. San Francisco Bay Area Microfarm. A global challenge to design visionary algae food and energy systems.