Community Algae Lab
Algae! A truly green crop for a sustainable future.
We are the Shipyard algae lab community.
We have created the world’s first community algae lab for the development of open-source, DIY-oriented algae technology, to facilitate the co-operative pursuit of this new form of agriculture — and we invite you to come learn how to raise algae and transform them into exciting products!
Our first Algae Lab got started in April, 2008, when Aaron Wolf Baum, Ph.D., confabbed with Jim Mason, the founder and executive chief of The Shipyard and All Power Labs of Berkeley, CA, picked a 20′ shipping container for the portable laboratory and issued a call for budding algae enthusiasts. These intrepid individuals soon built the world’s first community algae lab. By removing the roof and replacing it with a rack for 16 2′x3′ ponds, and filling the inside with algae growth bottles, bubbling tubes and other laboratory equipment, they soon had a space for open-source investigations of algae technology.
Algae the new crop harvested by home-growers
Raising spirulina requires a complex mix of nutrients, acid/base balance, temperature and other physical requirements. But Baum says it’s the food of the future because it can grow in ultra-compact areas, cleans greenhouse gases, and reproduces in a matter of hours so it can be harvested every day.
While laboratory algae tanks can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Baum’s seven-hour workshops costs $150 and hand-built tanks go for $150, pretty much at cost.
“I think everyone was pretty thrilled, excited to get growing. It seemed like a lot more possible for the common person, even with no science background,” said Katia Sussman, 26, who attended a recent workshop in Berkeley.
Baum’s so serious about making algae accessible that he’s offered to help workshop participants install their tanks for free if they run into trouble.
Baum wants to continue to form the Linux of algae – a DIY community that uses low-cost materials and shares information. He has hundreds of people on his mailing list and fields inquiries from as far as Italy and Japan.
“Aaron could’ve made a lot of money but he’s committed to doing it open source,” said Mike Gittelsohn, a software engineer and fellow algae-phile. “A lot of companies want to keep their knowledge proprietary.”