Sludgesteading: Robotic Algae Farming on the High Seas

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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 kickstarter.com 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 MSNBC.com.

If you come across a story about a potential seastead business model, send it our way by emailing info@seasteading.org.

3 comments

  1. George Wade 7:48 pm

    Agreed !

    NASA think so too, so I put a link on Seastead’s Facebook Wall.

  2. Elwar 10:58 pm

    It was interesting until I saw this:
    “We do not use the fuel being produced but we use a lot of energy, 288 kilowatt-hours daily. This is 982656 btu to make 5 gallons of fuel, which is 635000 btu. It does take more energy to make than we get but the conversion energy is from wind blowing miles at sea, where it isn’t helping anyone.”

    Seasteaders would find plenty of use for energy from wind blowing miles at sea.

  3. Profile photo of George Wade
    George Wade 6:30 pm

    Whenever you can use wind or wave energy directly, that is efficient. Sometimes it is necessary to store energy for use later; in another location…

    Submarines can use stored energy, while sailing ships often need engine power to get across quiet stretches of ocean and to manoever in port.

    So the whole system needs describing: something critical logic and text is not the best tool for. Though it does handle dangers and difficulties; some kinds of order and detail goes well in text. Systems often need representation worth thousands of words, pictures and video, where we see both NASA and Elwar being right about the potential of biofuel from algae

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