Sludgesteading: Robotic Algae Farming on the High Seas


We frequently receive interesting suggestions for promising economic opportunities on the ocean, but we rarely come across an idea as novel as BEAR Oceanics’ floating robotic algae farms, which are capable of converting sludgy algae biomass into diesel biofuel. With $1,200 in materials and 140 hours of labor, the company claims it can create a robot that produces 5 gallons of biodiesel per day without the use of chemicals, using only power from the wind and the sun. Additionally, the concept can be scaled up to any size, meaning it could eventually offer an alternative to drilling for fossil fuels. Finally, the algae farms can be placed in fresh or salt water, and in relatively choppy seas.

While the robots do not require human operators, algae farming could still be incorporated into our vision of seasteading in multiple ways. First, large farms in the open ocean would require workers to maintain the vessels and collect and transport the finished product to land. An algae farming business could give rise to a small surrounding community, or “sludgestead.” Algae farms could also end up as a valuable power source for seasteads themselves.

The creators of the robots have created a page, which allows interested people to contribute money that will go towards specific predefined goals. With a couple of weeks to go, the project has already nearly doubled its funding goal. The page includes an informative FAQ, as well as a 3D model of the most recent prototype. You can also find their Facebook page here.

A hat tip goes to Tim Potter for pointing us to the article on

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  1. Rudolph Behrens 6:50 am

    Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Rudolph Behrens 11:23 am

    I would like to point out how these robots could enhance Seasteading. They work best in areas of high winds and strong currents. These are not usually the best places to site an ocean habitat. They can produce fuel, water or food in inhospitable areas and bring these products to the seastead, where they are built, maintained and operated.

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