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Biotech Open Source Earth Science Technology

Is DIY Algae Farming the Future? 322

Posted by timothy
from the for-fun-and-food-and-friendship dept.
hex0D points to this "interview with Aaron Baum explaining why people growing algae at home for food can help the environment and their health, and what he's doing to facilitate this. 'We'd like to create an international network of people growing all kinds of algae in their homes in a small community scale, sharing information, doing it all in an open source way. We'd be like the Linux of algae – do-it-yourself with low-cost materials and shared information.' And one of the low-cost materials is your household urine."
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Is DIY Algae Farming the Future?

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  • Re:Skeeters control? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:42PM (#33556218) Homepage Journal

    Its been raised as an issue with rainwater tanks where I live. The solution seems to be to have a grid of fly wire over all large openings so that the mozzies can't get in and out.

  • Re:Urine? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:53PM (#33556288)

    I use urine in my compost. Its sterile, full of nitrogen and phosphates, generally a good thing.

  • Re:Does mold count? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kvasio (127200) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:00PM (#33556360)

    make sure your mold is not Monsanto-copyrighted.

  • Re:Skeeters control? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MattskEE (925706) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:00PM (#33556362)

    In commercial algae growth, the water is not standing, it is agitated. For home algae growth you may not use an agitator, but I imagine at the least you would use an air bubbler like in fish tanks to keep things mixed. And of course, by screening any openings the mosquitoes can't get in to lay eggs.

  • Re:Urine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:18PM (#33556504) Journal
    In the developed world, we prefer the euphemism "biosolids".

    Dealing with the leftovers of sewage treatment is so much more cost effective when they can be classified as fertilizer. Luckily, absolutely nobody would dream of dumping heavy metals or some of the nastier organics into the general sewage system, so soil application is entirely safe...
  • Re:Urine? (Score:3, Informative)

    by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:27PM (#33556568)

    Feces are pathogenic unless very carefully composted. Urine is sterile right out of the tap.

  • Re:Urine? (Score:3, Informative)

    by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:28PM (#33556578)

    Well, unless you happen to have a bladder infection at the moment, then perhaps not.

  • Re:Urine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by westlake (615356) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:38PM (#33556654)

    You do understand that in many places normal food crops are still fertilized by feces?

    But....

    The use of human feces as fertilizer is a risky practice as it may contain disease-causing pathogens and because it contains heavy metals. Nevertheless, in developing nations it is widespread. Common parasitic worm infections, such as ascariasis, in these countries are linked to night soil, since their eggs are in feces. Night soil [wikipedia.org]

    Nearly 2.2 million people die each year because of diarrhea-related diseases, including cholera, according to WHO statistics. More than 80 percent of those cases can be attributed to contact with contaminated water and a lack of proper sanitation. Human Waste Used by 200 Million Farmers, Study Says [nationalgeographic.com]

  • Re:Urine? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tacarat (696339) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @08:02PM (#33556846) Journal
    I lived in one of those places while in the military. We were advised to not eat the local fresh veggies unless we could peel them. I think hepatitis was one of the concerns due to blood in the untreated sewage.
  • Re:Urine? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:05PM (#33557244) Homepage

    You can probably explain that with at TOTAL LACK OF NATURAL SELECTION.

    In pre-industrial societies you're still lucky to make it to 13.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:07PM (#33557262)
    Most of the population has enough trouble with basic sanitation, leading to thousands of preventable cases of gastric poisoning each year. Now people are going to poison or kill themselves with home cultured algae gone wrong. At best they'll poison the local waterways & wildlife when they dump their bad algae.

    The is kind of why flying cars and jet packs, although feasible, haven't really taken off, pardon the pun. Drivers can barely manage turn signals let alone handle a third dimenson. People poison themselves with DIY alcohol brewing, preserves and curing gone wrong quite frequently.

    Anyone considered the disposal implications here? Many local governments would not allow you to dump this stuff via sewer or storm water.
  • by c0lo (1497653) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:55PM (#33558056)

    "People poison themselves with DIY alcohol brewing, preserves and curing gone wrong quite frequently. "

    Really? What toxins are produced by fermentation? How are these toxins magnified/added/altered by distillation?

    Methanol - not a product of yeast fermentation but anaerobic bacteria will produce it - may be encountered in fermentations gone wrong.

    Amygdayn [wikipedia.org] not a product of the fermentation, but present in the kernel of some fruits that are being used in preparing brandy. Dissolves in alcohol (resulted from fermentation): dangerous in high concentration, as one of the (enzyme catalyzed) decomposition path leads to hydrogen cyanide [wikipedia.org].

    (these two I know about as risks associated with DYI plum-brandy).

  • by TheFire8472 (974921) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:09AM (#33558790)
    Methanol is produced as a byproduct of most fermentation. It's present (in small parts) in commercial alcohols, more-so in commercial distilates, particularly the bottom-shelf-plastic-bottle ones. It's HARD to get enough methanol in a straight fermentation to be anything like harmful. It's tricky to produce anything that even hard-core drinkers will consume that has a dangerous quantity of methanol if you're distilling. It's better for us to consume less of it, but without deliberately doing so, quantities are unlikely to be harmful, whatever the FUDers on the mailing lists may say. Mostly the OP was FUDing about people poisoning themselves with brewing, which is extremely difficult.
  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:26AM (#33559000)
    There was an article a few months back that showed that you need certain enzimes produced by some specific bacteria, to digest algae.

    It depends on the type of algae. For instance, macroalgae (such as seaweeds) are pretty much similar to any other kind of plant, in that the cellulose portion of it whistles straight out of your exhaust-pipe unless you happen to be a goat, which has bacteria secreting cellulase in his rumen.

    Lots of phytoplankton are pretty much digestible, though I guess diatoms (which have silica cell walls) might be a bit problematic.
  • by DrFriendly (1900116) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:53PM (#33564108)
    Hello, Aaron Baum, the subject of the article here.
    We are acting to address this! A Make magazine article is in the works, with all the information necessary to build your own home-grow Spirulina kit including sourcing suggestions.

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