An ATL Community Algae PhotoBioreactor for Health, Climate and Soil!

Post-industrial society is killing us slowly. We live in an environment of pervasive toxicity. Our primary line of defense in resisting the effects of mutagens and other physiological system disruptors is our diet. Eating fresh organic food provides our bodily systems with much needed complex biochemicals like polyphenols and other phytochemicals. These chemicals aid in the regulation of our bodies and our adaptive response to chemical stressors like chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals.

Algae has been touted for many decades as a wonderfood because of both its nutritional and chemical makeup. Spirulina, for example, is thought to have been a food source for the Aztecs who made square cakes out of the algal mats they collected. Today, algae is still used as a food in Chad.

Haematococcus pluvialis is an algae species that is currently considered one of the most beneficial species for human health and nutrition. This species contains the highest naturally occuring concentration of the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, up to 4% of biomass when grown under stressed conditions. This naturally occuring substance is considered in the scientific medical literature to be a photoprotectant in the skin and retina, an anti-inflammatory, contributor to the moderation of LDL and HDL cholesterol blood levels, anti-cancerous, anti-neurodegenerative, and immunomodulating. Considering these attributes, it is not surprising that Haematococcus pluvialis fetches ~$7,000 a kilogram retail.

Taking this into account, and the necessity of developing an open sourced algae photobioreactor design for the sequestration of carbon dioxide, the CDC slime expert, Catherine Armbruster, and myself are starting an open source algae photobioreactor project for human health and subsequent algae research into carbon sequestration and soil amendments.


Design, build, and operate an open source algae photobioreactor to produce, market and sell bulk food-grade Haematococcus pluvialis with a high biomass content of the medically significant carotenoid, astaxanthin.

Project Philosophy

This project is part of the international open source ecology movement to develop and diffuse disruptive technologies that can redefine both the social and ecological relations of production in our global economy. Inspired by successful organizations such as the New Alchemy Institute, Factor E Farm and ShipYard Labs this biotechnology project intends to function as the seed enterprise for funding an integrated peer to peer socio-ecology research institute and business incubator in Atlanta to aid the transition towards a socially and ecologically just world. All proceeds from the sale of Haematococcus pluvialis will go towards establishing the not for profit institute.

Our strain selection criteria is primarily based on the high-value of the dried and cracked algae Haematococcus pluvialus. However, this strain is particularly difficult to grow because of the need to control environmental parameters and the dual-stage growth process necessary to induce astaxanthin production within the algae. These added difficulties are the second criteria of our selection. Due to this strains' difficult requirements the algae photobioreactor we engineer will be suitable for many other strain requirements and provide the opportunity for further research into algae-based products such as carbon sequestration and soil amendments.


A small-scale proof of concept prototype will be crowdfunded by local and international stakeholders with an interest in

  • our product
  • the establishment of the institute and
  • economic development, social justice and urban sustainability in Atlanta.
Funding for a full-scale facility will be bootstrapped from the sale of our product while we solicit donations to the institutes Open Development Fund endowment. The Institutes Open Development Fund, in turn, will provide the angel investment necessary to start-up the full-scale production facility. Information about where to donate will be provided after initial prototype designs and budgets are published. Further information and opportunities to collaborate can be found at the projects homepage at Freeside Atlanta hackspace and our OpenPario project management tool.