Growing Algae to Feed Oysters

Sarah Caron is a graduate mechanical engineering student from Holden, Maine at the University of Maine working on her masters.

A Maine aquaculture farming facility teamed up with the University in need of a large volume photobioreactor (PBR) to grow algae that would be used to feed oysters at their facility. The facility is currently purchasing their algae offsite which is expensive to transport where so much of the algae culture is water and the algae often die in transit which provides less nutrition to the oysters. Being able to grow their algae onsite and having it pumped directly into their oyster tank would be not only cost effective, but more beneficial to their farm.

To meet this need, Sarah’s research involves the design and development a 450 gallon automated photobioreactor. The PBR provides the algae with the light, carbon dioxide, and nutrients it needs for photosynthesis as well as contains a control system that monitors, pH levels, temperature, algae density, and the salinity of the culture.
The control system will soon be upgraded to allow for continuous harvesting that will automatically pump algae culture into the oyster tank when ready for harvest and refill with new seawater and nutrients to continue growing.
Fun facts about algae:
  • It is estimated that algae produces between 70 and 80% of the oxygen in the atmosphere.
  • Algae is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and can more than double its biomass in the span of a day which makes it an excellent candidate for biofuel production.