Grow your own algae protein: Spirulina Photobioreactor


Hey guys!

I’ve been working on a device to grow 10-20g of protein daily. So far it’s been simple prototypes for the past year or so and would love to connect with anyone else who wants to farm algae.

Check out what we’ve been doing here:

Please reach out at if you’re interested in connecting!


How do you thing algae would do with high press. aeroponics? I think you could make it work with a large screen for the algae to grow on in place of the net pots.

Check out my systems here: My shot at a "Food SuperComputer"

Would love to chat!


I’m working with microalgae so I’m actually looking to prevent any kind of biofilm formation if that’s what you mean. Microalgae is edible and absolutely tasteless when consumed fresh. It’s also packed with nutrients and doubles every 23 hours.


Cool! Just what i was hoping someone would post here about! I’m not so much interested in growing algae to eat, but rather for biodiesel and biofuels. Though maybe i will try it at least. But regardless i am highly interested in learning how bioreactors work. Can you post some pictures, diagrams, and help explain how the technology behind bioreactors work?

Do you use an air pump with an airstone to keep the water bubbling and churning? How critical is this to the health and production of the algae in the bioreactor?


Also, I’ve heard Spirulina is pretty popular, but what about other types of algae? What about red algae? Have you thought about growing duckweed for eating?


I’ll be posting some pictures of my progress. Previously I remade this photobioreactor:

Yes I primarily use an airlift pump. The biggest factor of algae growth is making sure light gets to the cells. Even circulation is key - you want to be sure whatever pump you use gently and evenly mixes the cells without stressing them.

Haematococcus (red microalgae) is used for astaxanthin production. Chlorella and Nannochloropsis are both eaten. Many types of algae are used as pigments, antioxidants or more. Microalgae/cyanobacteria don’t seem to be a widely explored topic in microbiology; most people are working on yeast, e. Coli and b. subtilis. Chlamydomonas is the most commonly used microalgae but they’re a pain to work with.


The whole project is pretty neat, have you built and test a prototype? Are you thinking to commercialize it? I am working on an environmental computer to automate small indoor farms, I don’t know if it helps you but let’s get in touch and change ideas! Climate Computer

You mention in your Instructables article about modified yeast used to create opioids, spider silk, leather, etc… I know a guy working on modifying yeast using CRISPR to produce cannabinoids in Canada, am sure he will be interested in something like this. Out of curiosity, why are companies using yeast instead of microalgae to genetically engineer them to produce this stuff, is there an obvious advantage?


Just to clarify - I didn’t make the original instructables, I recreated/improved upon the design. We’re on v0.3 of our hobbyist kit (you can buy one at and I’m building our first fully-enclosed prototype for algae research labs. Kevin Chen from Hyasynth is a good friend :smiley:

Yeast has a faster growth rate/denser output but requires a sugar source as the intermediate. Since sugar is so cheap it makes sense to use yeast. In places where you don’t have any resources, algae is king. I’m thinking of applications for consumable protein first because fresh spirulina is tasteless and requires minimal processing besides filtration, then move towards pigments and higher-value compounds.


Jaja its crazy that you know him too, the agtech world is small I guess. Where do you see algae having an advantage over yeast? I am thinking you could use your product to cheaply make biofactories (using CRISPR modified algae to produce stuff like drugs) in space if it zero gravity allows it and doesn’t use a lot of water. Let me know if I can help, your project sounds pretty cool!


@catbarpH Might be interested in this topic.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri (USA) where the Danforth Plant Science Center is located. You might be interested in reading some of their publications regarding Algae as a biofuel. I know of one individual there who I intend to point towards this thread as well who has done some DIY stuff.

For those of us (myself included) who are naive to this world of algae production (for food or fuel) can you provide some relevant articles/links to good places to get started learning?

Lastly, one of my concerns with the entire topic of controlled agriculture is how do we optimize for more than just yield (biomass) whether that be genetic selection/modification, or phenotypical manipulation. Curious if anyone has given thought to this as it relates to algae/bioreactors:


Good time on the Danforth Plant Science Center - I’ll reach out to them to see if they’re interested in what we’re developing. We have our own guide on our website and will be releasing additional content but in the meantime you can check out this simple guide to get started with spirulina:

It’s really simple to grow and incredibly dense in terms of nutrition. Here’s one of my initial setups when I was getting started:

@Webb.Peter good point and even better graph. What I’ve been working towards is maximizing output using specially designed optical density sensors. Right now I’m focused on biomass output to maximize protein production per unit volume. Depending on what you’re trying to detect though I don’t see why you can change the environment to maximize the output of specific secondary metabolites. Many algae researchers are doing that already by reducing the amount of nitrogen or increasing the amount of light to get microalgae to produce antioxidants or pigments.

I hope all this helps! Be on the lookout for more posts from me and posts on our website detailing our bioreactor


A homemade bioreactor used to grow modified algae is a pretty cool idea. I can imagine growing algae that produce medicines. You could potentially make the algal protein that makes opioids or cannabinoids. I am wondering though, how would you purify your extract?

Peter, I am guessing there is already work being done on the genetic modification part, especially with CRISPR. Phenotypical manipulation would be a little harder to achieve, I don not think the information is there. Maybe someone has to build the database first?


Hey everyone! We recently released a simple kit to start growing your own spirulina. Check it out here and let me know what you think:

Use the code MITOpenAg to get 20% off <3


I checked out your site. Looks interesting. I’ve probably heard of spirulina before, but I never paid much attention to it. Do you have any recommended books or links for learning more about spirulina? I’m thinking mostly about nutritional studies and stuff like the NASA research you mention on your about page.


This is one of the best sites I’ve found for learning about the health effects of spirulina:

Here’s the original NASA paper:


Hey everyone - we’re gearing up to release the next version of our kit this coming month. Let me know if you’d be interested in helping out with future versions!

So far we’ve seen success in growing quickly with no contamination and minimal resources. Turns out that you may even be able to grow spirulina on urine (we haven’t tried it yet). Let me know if you’re interested in testing it out or giving some feedback!