Algae On Your Plate

For those of us who grow up around natural swimming holes, algae are the reason we have to wash after taking a dip. Swimmer’s itch* or just being covered in green goop is not an attractive way to spend an afternoon. Lumping all algae together is not fair, some of it is nasty but some of it is delicious and humans have been eating it for generations.

If you are thinking that cases of algae cuisine are not widespread and that algae does not sound appealing, you are not alone. It is a tough sell, like convincing someone to try dandelions for the first time. It may not warrant a refrigerator section in the grocery store yet, but algae can produce protein-rich food which doesn’t require a lot of processing.

Currently, there is a lot of work to be done to bring up the efficiency of algae farms, and Qualitas has already started. The leaps they are making signify just how much room we have for improvement. The circulating paddle wheels, which can be seen in the video below the break, use one-third of the energy from their previous version. Their harvester uses one-thirtieth! Right now, their biggest cost comes from tanks of carbon dioxide, which seems off given that places such as power plants pay to get rid of the stuff. That should give some food for thought.

The 2018 Hackaday prize could use some algal submissions and you could take that to the bank. Ready to start growing your own algae, automate the process. It may also keep you from tripping while walking to the grocery store, or you can print with it.

*Author’s note. After reading [Steve Pridgeon] in the comments, we should say swimmer’s itch is not caused by algae. Thank you for the correction.

34 thoughts on “Algae On Your Plate

    1. I’d like to see a comparison between a car on biofuel (including required area, evaporation in the algae ponds, processing, dehydration and transport) and an electric car running on solar. I just can’t imagine a biofuel car being economically viable when an electric car running on solar electricity can already compete with normal fuel cars.

      1. Well you can more easily transport biofuel where ever you’re going (Like tow a bowser behind you), and the technology for producing it will hopefully go down in price. And Diesel will always be king for using in tractors and lorries

      2. There’s a major misconception regarding solar powered electric cars…I did the calculations once, and it turns out that the average rooftop solar panel installation, over a whole sunny summer’s day, gives you just enough energy to sprint from 0 to 60mph, twice, in a Tesla electric car. – “Just poke a couple of panels up on the roof, and your energy costs fall to zero, right?”

        1. Tesla Model S weighs about 2200kg, at 60mph that’s a kinetic energy of 790kJ. Assuming 50% efficiency PV -> wheels, you could do those two sprints to 60mph using less than one kilowatt-hour. Most (sensible) solar PV installations are above one kilowatt and get more than an hour of sunlight in a “sunny summer’s day”.

          Tesla forum users report an average ~350Wh/mile while not drag racing (1). In the (famously sunny) UK a 4kW solar installation is expected to produce about 9kWh/day (2), or about 25 miles of model S driving – enough for the average UK road commute of ~10 miles (3).

          Tell me again about how you did the calculations?

          (1) https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/watts-per-mile-typical-values-versus-speed.63348/
          (2) https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/electricity-power-output
          (3) https://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/mobility#a23

        2. Just in case my other comment falls down the memory hole because I used links to cite my sources:

          Tesla Model S weighs about 2200kg, at 60mph that’s a kinetic energy of 790kJ. Assuming 50% efficiency PV -> wheels, you could do those two sprints to 60mph using less than one kilowatt-hour. Most (sensible) solar PV installations are above one kilowatt and get more than an hour of sunlight a day.

          Tesla forum users report an average ~350Wh/mile while not drag racing (1). In the (famously sunny) UK a 4kW solar installation is expected to produce about 9kWh/day (2), or about 25 miles of model S driving – enough for the average UK road commute of ~10 miles (3).

      3. they really don’t, most solar installations are subsidised, and the cars are prohibitively expensive and only fiesable to most of there is a tax incentive or they are rich. not to mention when they are 7-10years old and the battery is knackered. and your average petrol or diesel vehicle still has plenty life left.

        biofuel from plants is fiesable but the concern is it’ll just entice farmers to grow fuel rather than food… so there will be no fresh vegetables in the shops, but at least we can drive there!

    1. You are correct. My whole family told me that the algae were responsible for swimmer’s itch or maybe they just said that I needed to wash all the green off because that should also take the lake water. Nice catch, I credited you after the video.

    1. yes because no food industry tests food on health and poisonous stuff before selling it. you sound like one those smartasses that says, when reading about nasa wanting to send people to mars, “well have they thought about the problem with water supplies, how will they filter it” as if they haven’t spend millions into research.

      1. We endure gross prejudices all the time, but let me Google it for you:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirulina_(dietary_supplement)#Quality-related_safety_and_toxicology

        The unregulated nature of the health supplements market in the USA attracts some of the most unethical sociopaths money can buy. The political definition defines the approach for idealizing this deregulation of markets — and thus is currently not monitored by the FDA.

        I may be a troll, as that does sound somewhat plausible if it were funny — but it does not necessarily preclude being incorrect in my assertions.
        ;-)

  1. You can eat it. You can drive your car on it. You can use it’s oil to back a universal commodity currency, thereby implementing a means of wealth creation through atmospheric carbon remission, and save our very skins in the process.

    1. Possibly. What I like about algae is the ease of growing and location (I’ve seen plans for plastic tubes in the ocean). Of course there’s always the idea of plankton as well as a food source.

  2. How much water do they need compared to wheat or corn?
    Looks like much of the water will evaporate until they harvest.
    Or is it less because of the flat surface vs. the branches and leafs of common crops?

    1. The water won’t be gone, our planet still has the same amount of water molecules after growing the algae, so who cares?

      All we need is more water cleaning facilities, but we need these anyway, doesn’t matter if we farm algae on the big or not.

      1. Not that simple.
        Where water comes from matters. Over pumping aquifers destroys them & prevents normal people from getting drinking water because farmers have a contract with the municipal government.
        That said, hydroponics uses much less water than traditional agriculture so algae farms shouldn’t be too detrimental if operated responsibly.

  3. “If you are thinking that cases of algae cuisine are not widespread and that algae does not sound appealing, you are not alone. It is a tough sell, like convincing someone to try dandelions for the first time.”

    Sushi seems to be fairly widely accepted.

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