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This kit makes it shockingly easy (and pretty) to farm your own algae at home

Algae is full of protein, cleans the air in your apartment, and looks beautiful. A new project from a RISD grad could make farming it at home as easy as growing a pot of basil.

Algae is really good for you. Besides being about 60% solid protein and chock full of vitamins, researchers have also found that it can boost your immune system and even help you exercise longer. But how to get it? You can take a health supplement—or you could grow it yourself using a new, easy-to-use algae farm.

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[Photo: courtesy Hyunseok An]
Designed by recent Rhode Island School of Design master’s program graduate Hyunseok An, The Coral is a farming system that consists of 16 cells that are meant to be hung on a wall. You add a little bit of micro-algae to each one, along with purified water, salt, and some algae food (which is available for purchase online), and turn on an air pump that’s connected to all the cells. The algae uses the carbon dioxide inside your house as fuel as it slowly grows. This is the same role it plays on the planet at large: Algae pulls 10 times as much carbon dioxide from the air as regular plants, which means having an algae farm at home is going to be much more efficient at purifying your air than your typical houseplants.

Over the course of about two weeks, each of the cells will slowly turn more and more green. The color acts as a visual cue for when to harvest; once a cell has turned dark blue-green, you strain the water out using a mesh filter. Then, it’s algae snack time. An says that each cell is designed to hold between two and three grams of algae, which is a recommended dose per day (if you eat three grams of micro-algae, a little less than two of those grams will be protein). If you stagger when you plant each of the 16 cells with algae, you could harvest a new cell every day, creating what An calls a “daily ritual for algae consumption.” Plus, the algae farm will look even more beautiful on your wall if each cell is a different shade of green.

[Photo: courtesy Hyunseok An]
Blue-green micro-algae, also called spirulina, probably isn’t something you want to eat raw. But today, there’s a whole movement that seeks to establish algae as a normal part of people’s diets. You can add your home-grown algae to things like smoothies, cookies, or hamburger buns. People are even adding blue-green algae powder to cream cheese to make Instagram-friendly “mermaid toast.” Ikea innovation lab Space10’s recent cookbook also calls for micro-algae as an ingredient in several recipes if you’re looking for inspiration. Bon appétit!

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable

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