Erbland, P., S. Caron, M. Peterson, and A. Alyokhin. 2020. Design and performance of a low-cost, automated, large-scale photobioreactor for microalgae production. Aquacultural Engineering 90 (2020) 102103

Microalgae feed production is a major cost in bivalve aquaculture. Its efficiency is increased by scaling it up under automated control of environmental conditions. The initial cost of commercially available systems can be prohibitive. Therefore, a large volume full-scale photobioreactor built of low-cost, readily available materials was developed and tested. A cone-bottom, polyethylene tank was internally illuminated with submersible fluorescent lamps and equipped with a monitoring and control system that measured temperature, pH and optical density of the microalgal culture. Injection of CO2 was automated to maintain pH within a target range. System performance was evaluated by growing four batch cultures of Tetraselmis chuii. Temperature inside the photobioreactor was 29.5±2.38°C (mean±SD, range 21-35°C) and pH was 7.56±0.87 (mean±SD, range 5.29-8.97). Optimal harvest time was after 300 h (12.5 days) of growth, yielding 1700L of microalgae at a density of 2500 cells/ µl (1200 cells/ µl/ m2 illuminated surface area). With 24 h illumination, the fluorescent lights, air pump and monitoring/ control device consumed 14.9, 1.9 and 0.1 kwh/ day, respectively. Assuming the microalgae are harvested at their optimal density after 12.5 days, each batch would consume 211 kwh or 0.124 kwh/ liter. The photobioreactor described provides an economical option for growing large amounts of microalgae for aquaculture feed and other purposes.