Four years ago, a retired professor of biology, Stan Grove, began working with the chief executive officer of Formco, Dave Slagel, to try to grow algae more efficiently.
The goal of the project, called AlgaeTown, is to be able to commercially grow algae to be used as a source of fuel and food. The harvest methods the team members are using are, as far as they know, not used by anyone else.
Over the summer, several students joined the research effort: Aaron Kauffmann, a senior, tested the effects of rotifers, or microscopic or near-microscopic invertebrates, on the growth of the algae; and Tessa Yoder tried to determine which nutrient concentration yielded the best algae growth. Other students involved in the project are Maria Jantz, a junior, and Natasha Weisenbeck, Krystel Pierre and Aradhana Roberts, all seniors.
“Most people don’t care about the efficiency of growing algae,” Kauffmann said.
But if AlgaeTown can figure out a way to efficiently extract oils from tons of algae, people would take notice. To date no one has figured out how to effectively grow and harvest a large enough biomass of algae to make it competitive. The AlgaeTown team believes they may be getting closer.
To support their work on algae growth and extraction, the AlgaeTown researchers launched a campaign to raise $18,700.
To harvest the algae, the team currently uses different kinds of meshes and a small amount of water to saturate the algae. In the future, with the funds from their crowd-source fundraising page on RocketHub, the team hopes to more efficiently harvest the algae with an air knife.
AlgaeTown is one of several fundraising initiatives under way in Goshen. Transition Goshen will sponsor a panel discussion at the Art House on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. to explore how crowdfunding bridges the gap between traditional philanthropy and investment to offer a fresh way to connect local resources to local opportunities. Art House, formerly known as New World Arts, is based at 211 S. Main St., on the second floor.
The three campaigns are using different platforms and targeting different audiences:
- Goshen Art House – asking for $15,000 on Kickstarter for equipment to establish a local independent theater.
- AlgaeTown – seeking $18,700 through RocketHub to develop photobioreactors to convert algae into food and fuel.
- Transition Goshen – trying to raise $1,000 using Community Funded to help build community by gleaning fruit and pressing cider.
GoShakes will join the panel as well to share information about their success in raising over $3,000 to support their first production of “Romeo and Juliet” last spring.
For more information on the panel, please visit www.transtiongoshen.org/crowdfund.