Algae Farming 101

By: Shwetha Sivakaminathan and Lauren Harroff

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the UTEX Culture Collection of Algae located at the University of Texas in Austin. Algae include a very diverse range of organisms with differing sizes, shapes, colors and structural components. Microalgae fall into two broad categories: Cyanobacteria or Blue-green algae and Eukaryotic algae or true algae.

Outside the Culture Collection

The UTEX Culture Collection contains approximately 3,000 different strains of living algae, representing most major algal taxa. The workshop we attended focused on managing algae cultures, sterile culture techniques, basic biology of algae, and measuring growth—all important subjects for algal biofuels. We were able to tour the impressive collection, listen to lectures, and even try out the techniques ourselves. Below is just a sample of some of the things we learned:

Lauren practices pulling Pasteur pipettes into tiny micropippetes to isolate single cells for creating axenic cultures.

Some of the common terminologies used for microalgae are:

Culture (noun): A population of living microorganisms that is maintained away from its natural habitat under a set of conditions that is (to at least some extent) controlled.

Culture (verb): The process of maintaining and/or managing a culture.

Unialgal culture: A culture that contains one and only one kind of algae. It may contain other non-algal microorganisms.

Axenic culture (pure culture): A culture that contains only a single kind of microorganism.
Anaxenic culture of an alga would not contain any bacterial contaminants.

Species: A population of living microorganisms that is very similar as determined especially by their DNA sequences, but also by other characteristics. (The species we use is Chlorella protothecoides)

Strain: A population of living microorganisms, all of which were isolated from the same location at the same time, and all of which are virtually identical according to their DNA sequences. (The strain we use is Chlorella protothecoides UTEX 256.)

Subculturing: (Passaging or Transferring) A subculture is a new culture made by transferring some fraction of cells from a previous culture to fresh growth medium. Sub culturing is used to establish long term cell cultures and/or expand the number of cells in the culture.

Algae cultures are maintained either on agar slants or as liquid cultures depending on the nature of the strain. The incubator and storage rooms for all are maintained at room temperature of around 20 degrees C.

Most of the fresh water and soil algae that need to be stored for a long period of time go into cryopreservation i.e. storage in liquid nitrogen (below -196C). Cryopreservation minimizes maintenance cost, reduces space requirements, diminishes risk of contamination and prevents genetic changes.




3 Responses to “Algae Farming 101”

  1. Way to take the blog up a notch! I can’t wait to see more. Thanks for posting this great information!

  2. I believe the Future of Algae Production looks very promising. Thank you for supplying this great post for Green Energy Production. Kudos

  3. Great News for Clean Energy Production from Algae

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