Grow your own algae in an indoor micro-algae farm

Designer Hyunseok An developed a wall-mounted bioreactor system called The Coral, to grow your own algae for consumption.

Algae thrive on CO2, having a ten times greater carbon dioxide fixation than terrestrial plants. Additionally, the plants have many beneficial nutrients for humans, so much so that NASA uses algae as dietary supplements on long term space missions (they’re also a great resource in developing materials).

Yet, algae are generally not viewed as tasty or appealing, mostly because we often encounter them in not very pleasant situations, like in stagnant water. Most people will associate algae with a slimy, gross substance.

An’s installation The Coral aims to change our relationship with algae and integrate the plants in our everyday lives. The system is a wall-mounted bioreactor, consisting of individual square culture cells. Each cell in a four-by-four grid wall frame contains around 2 grams of algae when it turns dark green, the recommended daily amount. The 16 cells enables us to grow and eat algae every day, as one cell has a biweekly cycle to replenish after harvesting.

In addition, The Coral highlights the environmental benefits of algae through its coral pattern on the front. The cells change colour from transparent to shades of green as the algae grow. This symbolises the revitalisation of coral from ‘coral bleaching’, a worldwide phenomenon caused by climate change.

“Through its use and indoor experience, The Coral aims to change the preconception of algae, suggesting a socially acceptable way of reconnecting with algae and bringing it into our everyday lives,” An says. “By doing so, The Coral can help us take one step forward to a better, more sustainable way of living, for us and for our world.”

Photos: Hyunseok An