National Algae Association opens new process scale-up test center

By The National Algae Association | March 06, 2012

National Algae Association announced the opening of its Testing Center, a first-of-its-kind initiative that has been ongoing as a part of NAA's algae production incubator program to assist new algae startup companies test commercial photobioreactors, harvesters and extraction systems before entering the algae industry.

Potential investors are tired of hearing about what algae might be able to do—they want to see production capabilities, data and turn-key algae production systems all in one place.

The Testing Center is a test-bed for taking algae technologies out of the lab to be confirmed and to see if they have the capability to scale on acreage or in commercial buildings. Only a small percentage of algae technologies can scale. The Testing Center independently confirms algae technologies and proves whether they can scale. Algae researchers finally have the opportunity to collaborate with other algae researchers and commercial equipment manufacturers in one place to test lab-scale technologies in a commercial environment at the NAA testing facility.

Data is key to algae production scale-up. The Testing Center tests growth rates, inputs of nutrients and CO2, along with measuring harvesting and extraction data, while simultaneously measuring dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, ORP, salinity and temperature, using full data logging developed for the algae industry.  

"The Testing Center has been made possible because of the dedication of equipment and material providers who belief that algae can help to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil," said NAA Executive Director Barry Cohen. "This particular initiative shows us what can be done with hard work, collaboration and commitment to the scale-up of the commercial algae production industry, not government sponsored funding and research. Without companies like Georg Fischer, Harvel, Solar-Components, Bayliff Enterprises, Yokogawa, YSI, Gothic Arch Greenhouses,  Algae Technology Ventures, Airgas and Commercial Algae Management, we wouldn't be making this announcement today."

Cohen went on to say, "Based on my experiences with the academic community and with the U.S. Department of Energy, there is not a doubt in my mind why the DOE-funded projects have not led to commercial production in the U.S. By the time DOE-FOA-0000615 Advancements in Sustainable Algal Production (ASAP) gets funded in August, this initiative will be well under way. Our successes cannot be accomplished by hoping for future grant money and stocking labs with expensive lab equipment with disregard for obligations, commitments and milestones. This is something that's going to take the business community, led by doers, not talkers—those whose ulterior motives are genuinely to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to become energy independent and create jobs. NAA has made it this far without the any assistance of DOE research grants. Imagine what it could do with a little support."