How it all started

From New York to Hawaii

In 1985, our founder had the opportunity to carry out his MS (Stony Brook University) field work at Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo, Hawaii. 

Carotenogenesis in Spirulina (Arthrospira)

Carotenoid analysis (HPLC), biomass and productivity estimates, microscope work, cleaning ponds and test-tubes, etc. kept him busy for a year and resulted in one of the early manuscripts on Arthrospira carotenogenesis (Olaizola and Duerr, 1990).

Other learnings

Oceanic Institute turned out to be an eye opener. There, we began to understand the usefulness of algal biotechnology. At that time, work was being carried out on shrimp and fish rearing (from larvae to adults and reproduction), all supported by algal biomass in one way or another.

Carbon dioxide

CO2... you've got to have it!

Management of carbon dioxide is critical in outdoor algal cultures (and indoor). In 1987, back at Oceanic Institute, we had the opportunity to quantify the effect of CO2 fertilization in outdoor cultures of Tetraselmis.

There is a cost

Although you can produce algae without CO2 supplementation, our cost calculations indicated that the cost of CO2 is more than offset by the increase in productivity (Olaizola et al, 1991).

But, why pay for it?

A market for waste CO2 utilization is developing. We now know that algae can manage some of the dirtiest waste CO2 around (but more on this later).


Source of energy

In phototrophic systems, light (natural or artificial) provides algae with the energy to take up inorganic compounds (e.g., CO2, nutrients) and produce biomass. Much of the light intercepted by algae cultures is, however, not utilized (algae are not very efficient). Outdoors, as one wants to capture more energy to fuel their process, larger cultivation areas are needed. Or one can try to design more efficient cultivation units (more on raceways vs enclosed PBRs later) or more efficient algae.

Light management

Changes in light availability affect the physiology of algae. One can measure changes in photosynthetic efficiency and pigmentation, for example. Those measured changes can themselves be used to infer the light history of the cells in culture (Olaizola and Yamamoto, 1994; Olaizola et al, 1994)) and in the field (e.g., Olaizola et al, 1992). Understanding how light affects algal physiology provides the possibility of managing light (especially outdoors) to maximize its utilization and biomass productivity. 

Light as a measuring tool

Algae emit a small fraction of the absorbed light as fluorescence. The amount of fluorescence emitted is dependent on the physiological state of the algae. This information can be used to infer the photosynthetic efficiency of the cells (and the efficiency of your cultivation strategy, see previous paragraph) and also the nutritional status of the cells in cultures (e.g., Geider et al, 1993) and in wild populations (e.g., Olaizola et al, 1996).


More to come.....

This section is under construction