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Food of the Future: Window DIY Spirulina Superfood

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Picture of Food of the Future: Window DIY Spirulina Superfood
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Having your own spirulina window farm is one of the easiest most satisfying things you could ever take on. It is an environmentally friendly way to produce and consume a complete protein and nutritional source! Algae Spirulina is 25 times more efficient per squared foot than any other plant, which makes it optimal for indoor growth. Integrating algae into our homes can be one of the most significant things that can impact our nutrition. It is truly the food of the future as it contains all of the amino acids and is a complete protein!
 
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Step 1: Hardware

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To grow Spirulina at home you are going to need some hardware to optimize and automize the process. Most of it is readily available at your local pet or fish store.

10-20 Gallon Aquarium Tank
Air Pump
Heater
Air Line
Bubble Wand
Thermometer
Food Grade Harvesting tube
Ph Strips
Bi Valve
Harvesting Cloth (50 micron filter cloth)

The only thing that you will need to get from a specific source is your initial spirulina culture. SpirulinaSystems.com is the most affordable source.

Step 2: Tank Setup

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Find a south facing window for your tank. You can either use a table to place tank, or you can place a piece of wood on the window sill to make a shelf for the tank. Place tank on top. You can also grow spirulina in a greenhouse!

Step 3: Hardware Setup

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Start by arranging the bubble wand around the wall of the tank. This will aerate the spirulina and feed CO2 into the culture. Next, suction cup your heater to the wall of the tank. Set your heater to 88 degrees because the optimum growing temperature of spirulina is 92 degrees F. The clear harvesting tube is also suctioned to the glass of the tank. Now, run your air line to the bivalve: then to the bubble wand and the bottom of the food grade tube. The Bi-valve allows you to switch from aerating to harvesting with minimal effort.
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lukemarq13 days ago

You answered my prayer for an instructible on this! Yay!! Thank you! I am great at predicting the future and pond scum as I affectionately call it, is in it. I have some lab grown blue-green "clean chlorella tm" and it tastes quite good. I already tried growing it but they are dead as the cell walls are all cracked for digestion. Algae can be excellent as chips (go ahead and steal that 100 million dollar idea I have a million of them). Cooking with algae requires a different mindset as slime is not a usual cooking component but I have just thought of many recipes. As powder it is a good seasoning for many things. I look forward to doing your instructible! <3

the discussions in the comments here I dare say is probably the best source of info on algae cultivation available on the net.

EjderY24 days ago

Eeating is not only about getting the needed nutrients.

steve0001 year ago
hahaha gross. Technically its uber beneficial but I think most people wouldn't eat it. Great and well detailed article 10 thumbs up :P
Algaescientist (author)  steve0001 year ago
Thanks!!
I'll add some recipes to see if i can change your mind! =)
Please add recipes, I am wanting to start a home farm and this looks like a great food stuff to invest in. When I have the start up cash I will probably end up eating this stuff by the truck load :P
DrCath InTheory2 months ago

InTheory, follow this link for recipes with spirulina :)

http://www.spirulinaacademy.com/spirulina-recipes/

:O ok im up for that.

I see algae as fuel not food but id could never grow it enough to fuel my life so I guess i could eat it instead. Not like im gonna eat sunflowers or jatropha.
Maria893 months ago
I'm interested in starting my own spirulina farm. Would it be safe to just drink the spirulina water right out of the tank? I would like to use the water for smoothies as opposed to running the spirulina water through a cloth. I know I would have to replace the water to get it back to the same level but other than that... Would this work and would it be safe to drink?
DrCath Maria892 months ago

no, no no, you shouldn't drink the spirulina culture medium. It's nutrients for your little blue-green algae but it's not fit for you. You need to wash them (usually 3 times) with fresh water - you can recycle the water of course and add it to your ponds - before you can consume it.

More info on the culture medium here:

http://spirulinaacademy.com/2012/07/11/how-to-grow...

Hope this helps! let us know how it goes :)

DrCath DrCath2 months ago

link above not working. Please use this link:

http://www.spirulinaacademy.com/how-to-grow-your-o...

Maria89 DrCath2 months ago
Thank you! I was using Google to try and find an answer but I didn't find any... And thank you so much for the link! It's really helpful. I will start buying the equipment and supplies over the weekend and hopefully I will have my own little spirulina tank pretty soon :)
DrCath Maria892 months ago

Glad it helped :)

Great instructable! One question though; you mentioned (in some of your replies) having multiple aquariums for greater yields. But what if you just used a bigger aquarium? Wouldn't that yield more spirulina? Ultimately, I'm looking to produce 3 to 4 tablespoons daily. I'd prefer working with only one aquarium and I don't mind if it's bigger. Any recommendations?

it depends of the shape of your aquarium and the location of your culture.

Spirulina will need a LOT of light to have a high yield but if you live in the tropic (like me) the sun can damage the cells.

More info on the impact of the light on our favorite cyanobacteria here:

http://spirulinaacademy.com/2012/06/29/how_to_grow...

So in temperate latitudes you want to have an aquarium that exposes the spirulina to a maximum of light => you'll need a aquarium with a SMALL light path, think skinny aquarium, tall and long, so there is no zone in the aquarium more than 15 cm away from the sun light (or any artificial light devices you use).

In latitudes with higher sun intensity, you want to protect your spirulina from too much sun and you also want to increase the VOLUME of the tank to increase the buffer capacity of the water so the temperature doesn't go up too much (and drop down too fast, spirulina does NOT like rapid swing in temp.)

The advantage of have 2 aquarium vs. 1 is that is something wrong happens to one, you can always re-start from scratch using the other aquarium to inoculate (= introduce the spirulina into) the first one.

If for what ever reason you can only have 1, then make sure you keep a back-up culture, just in case.

A culture pond, once up and running, yields about 6 to 10 gr of dry spirulina per square meter per day. (Yields are estimated usually for larger productions that use ponds with a standard depth of 15 to 20cm, only the surface of the pond is taken into consideration for the production, so it's a little bit more tricky in a aquarium).

So to answer your question: YES a bigger aquarium will have a hogher yield.

Never weighted a tablespoon of fresh spirulina (what % of humidity are we talking about? Just as it comes out of the harvest cloth or pressed?). Let's assume it's about 10 gr, non pressed.

If you want to yield daily 40 gr of fresh spirulina @ 100% humidity, with the right sun exposure, temperature and shape, I guess you'll need a tank of about 30-40 gallon.

If you want my 2 cents, start small and then upgrade gradually towards a larger system. You can always re-sell the smaller tank and other equipments you don't want / need anymore.

I hope it makes sense :)

DrCath DrCath2 months ago

Sorry guys - I updated the website and all the links have changed :(

here is the link to the same page in the new website

http://www.spirulinaacademy.com/how_to_grow_your_o...

Sorry for the inconvenience...

omnibot1 year ago
Spirulina is not a superfood. As far as I've seen there is no evidence of any health benefits, in fact it is toxic. http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/algae.html
Algaescientist (author)  omnibot1 year ago
Hello Omnibot,
Do you speak from experience or just a vague google search? I have personally been consuming fresh spirulina for the last two years with positive benefits to my health and energy levels. Your link mentions pharmaceutical companies that were trying to rip people off by selling it at 300 dollars a pound. Yes, algae can become toxic if you grow it in contaminated water. The same way that if you grow a vegetable in lead contaminated soil, it will be toxic. That is why people question commercial sources of spirulina, but if you grow it at home you know the purity of your water source. As far as the term superfood, there is no consensus on its exact definition and I use it to convey the efficiency as a solar energy collector and oxygen producer in a small space. Algae as a food source produces oxygen and CO2 sequestration while most other food sources require fossil fuels to make and transport.
perhaps you could confirm that those nasties mentioned in the article are killed by the ph of 10?
i have been a tablet and capsule consumer from many different sources for over five years off and on. when i am flagging i start and pickup noticeably in a day or two.
except with my most recent capsule purchases from a supplier i think has gone bad or changed hands. these recent capsules also fail to turn the water into purple blue hue that i had always tested for in the past.
DrCath stoopid22 months ago

Ah ah! that's a very good indication that the
phycocyanin (one of the most important pigment of spirulina that has that deep blue hue) has been removed
and hence the efficacy of spirulina to boost your immune system greatly
reduced.

Beware of cheap spirulina, that's often what happens!! This is another reason to grow your own spirulina! At least you know exactly what you're eating :)

check this for more info on the
pigments in spirulina:

http://www.spirulinaacademy.com/pigments-in-spirul...

And YES the majority of potentially
dangerous bacteria can not survive in a culture medium with a pH >10

So make sure you check the pH before
EACH harvest.

And BTW, you have THOUSANDS (!!) of
scientific research papers published in very prestigious journals that have
demonstrated the positive impacts of spirulina on human (and animal) health.
But most of the big pharma companies are not too happy about that.

Just go to PubMed
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) and do a search for spirulina + "what
ever aliment you think it can help" and see what comes out.

But of course if you don't know what
you do and don't take care of your culture you might get nasty stuff in it,
just like when you don't brush your teeth, you'll get nasty stuff in your mouth
:)

bpfh omnibot1 year ago
What the Quackwatch article was promoting was the companies that are selling this product as a medicin rather than as food, and then classifying it as food but selling it in medicinal quanties at medicinal prices!

Now, a part from that, there is a very valid point in this article: in the wild, you avoid eating any blue-green algae, as yes, there is a real risk of poisoning. What I do not like about this is that you start growing your algae, but it can be so easy to grow somthing else that could make you sick. With a plantation, you can pull out the weeds and keep the veggies, but here you cannot tell the difference between good and bad. As much as I believe that algae based products are good for you and in some cases wiil be a staple of the future, I would want clear testing guidelines to make sure that the algae I want to grow is actually what *is* growing... clean and fresh water is one thing... but it's not a guarantee !

I have been growing and eating my own Spirulina both indoors and out for many years, with continuous microscopic monitoring. If you maintain the alkalinity of the medium, it is rare for other species to grow (most often Chlorella, which is harmless). Spirulina itself has never been known to produce toxins (see Wikipedia, there is a reference there). It is important to check your culture with a microscope occasionally.

I believe Spirulina is a superfood as the term is ill defined. It can be grown cheaply and replace 60% of your protien intake without any ill health effects. This should be a cash crop that should be up there with corn (maze). It is a complete protien that has more protien then all other usual plant sources.
Yes, don't grow it in rancid water. Don't go harvesting it from nature with who knows what in the water. However, in a tank at home where you can control everything should have no toxic ill effects.

My research
Chamorro-Cevallos, G.; B.L. Barron, J. Vasquez-Sanchez (2008). "Toxicologic Studies and Antitoxic Properties of Spirulina". In Gershwin, M.E. Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health (CRC Press).
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874198000804
Omnibot, according to your link, Spirulina is nontoxic, but other blue-green algae had detectable levels of a particular toxin.
Algaescientist (author) 1 year ago

So sad how people resort to name calling and accusations. The idea of sharing is only hindered by those wanting to take credit and make profit. Why can't different sources of information exist without jeopardizing the growth of each.

Also agree with you. It's a great instructable! Don't worry too much about the no sayers, they'll always be there...

fully agree. this is equality. thank you for the instructable.

How much Spirulina would you have to grow until you reach a production of 1 kg daily? I'm planning to set up an experimental rig: 150 litre plexiglass tanks, three or four stacked on top of each other, two columns next to each other. 600 Watt multi-metal high pressure lamps, two per column, and smaller high pressure multi-metal lamps between the rows. The tanks would be added in setups of eight tanks in each until one kilogram per day is reached in optimal growth conditions. Nitrogen can be obtained from compost tea and powdered silica mix, as well as urine, but nitrogen-rich compost from legumes does the trick as well, air curtain to add oxygen in the water, air pump to pump some air in it, and some nutrient mix meant normally for houseplants with some extra nitrogen perhaps. What's the optimal temperature? does it need a light cycle? It doesn't flower, so I assume it can grow even without a cycle, right?

Like this:

watertanks.jpg

wouw! that looks very cool! Agreed with Algaescientist, please update us on your project! Would love to see that :)

Algaescientist (author)  tsantakallio1 year ago

The average output is 20 grams per meter squared in a pond set up (10" height). You would have to translate that to vertical space to get a good idea. I think you will definitely get a good return if you use lamps and keep the culture at around 95 degrees. Please update if you create the project

This guy makes some highly suspect claims on his website, such as that 1 gram of Spirulina is equivalent to 1000 grams of fruit and vegetables... This guy pretends that he came up with this stuff, but there are other providers of Spirulina grow systems with a much longer track record who are a lot more honest.

well, in fact this was a study done by the NASA in the 80's. And the same agency fed the Astronauts spirulina during their space missions to enrich their diets. Pretty cool, uh!

They even developed a program called CELSS (controlled ecological life support system) which planned to cultivate spirulina in space stations (because, among other things, of its capacity to recycle CO2 and produce O2 and of course the very high yields and health benefits!).

How does wet, raw algae compare volumetrically / nutritionally to dehydrated spirulina by the tablespoon?

Usually small farms try to dehydrate the spirulina to leave MAX 10% humidity.

So basically 100 gr fresh = 10 gr dry

So you concentrate all the nutrients you have in your spirulina the same way. For the vitamins it's more complicated because some get oxidized/altered very quickly.

Hope this helps :)

Maria893 months ago
I'm interested in starting my own spirulina farm. Would it be safe to just drink the spirulina water right out of the tank? I would like to use the water for smoothies as opposed to running the spirulina water through a cloth. I know I would have to replace the water to get it back to the same level but other than that... Would this work and would it be safe to drink?
El Mano1 year ago
When you harvest, how much material do you get? Harvesting 1/3 of the tank would of course give you different amounts depending on the size of your tank (you use a 20 gallon tank?); how dense is the growth, and what size tank would you need in order to eat the stuff as more than just a teaspoon sized supplement? SpirulinaSystems's nutrient kits give enough nutrients for about 6 pounds of the stuff, or about 192 tablespoons of it; how many harvests will that produce, and how long will the nutrient mix last?

Also, how much does it cost to maintain, with nutrients, iron and all? You mention how much sodium bicarbonate to add to a liter of water, but do you know how much of the other nutrients to add? It might be cheaper to buy them in bulk from a food-grade supplier (if possible to find) and mix them yourself.

I'm looking for healthy alternative food sources, and spirulina seems to fit the bill. If the most I'll ever get is a teaspoon a day, however, or I bankrupt myself in the process, it would probably not be worth it.
spider87 El Mano7 months ago

I can't really answer your questions but I'd definitely suggest more research than just this instructable. Not saying you weren't planning on it but this instructable seems a bit suspicious to me. It uses the same/related images as are used on spirulinasystems.com and just happens to also recommend buying stuff from them. I'd suggest this is a sales tool. There's probably a much cheaper way to get going with this. I'm hoping that there is too because $60 is NOT affordable as a starter culture for some water with some algae in it.

I'm guessing you haven't priced a lot of spirulina cultures.

Actually, if you price a pint of high density spirulina culture from trusted scientific suppliers, who guarantee the purity and vitality of their cultures, $60 is an excellent price.

I don't know the quantity being offered by spirulinasystems, but saying something is overpriced without even mentioning quantity or quality seems to me a bit like buying a car or home sight unseen - unwise, and a tad ignorant.

That said, even with spirulina, it is FAR safer to check your culture visually with a microscope on a regular basis, and easy to do as spirulina is pretty unmistakable. Unless you have a clean room, which few of us can provide in a home setting, it is always possible for your culture to become contaminated.

Ok. Good? My point was that this instructable is likely a sales tool for spirulinasystems.com and that more research is suggested because they may not have the best price. I also then expressed my personal opinion that $60 was too much for some algae. In the comment that I replied to, the user mentioned that he didn't want to break the bank. I was warning him that going straight to spirulina systems may not be the best option as this doesn't appear to be a genuine "user recommendation" of their site.

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