Algal oil- efficiency

Hi guys,

I’m quite interested in the claims on the front page that the algae used to produce the oil used in Soylent 2.0 are cultivated “efficiently in bioreactors rather than traditional farms to conserve enormous quantities of natural resources”.

Claim on front page

According to this article [1], the product used is Solazyme’s AlgaWise oil. On their website[2] they state that the algae are grown in the dark and thus are not able to photosynthesise, instead they feed them plant sugars that are presumably derived from plants grown with “traditional farms”.

FAQ from the Algawise website

The ability of algae to photosynthesise is one of the reasons why products derived from algae should be able to conserve natural resources, but this is not the case for this particular oil. The photobioreactors used to grow algae are also largely energy inefficient and expensive (especially when it comes to keeping them sterile), and the harvesting of biomass and extraction of the oil itself has to be factored in also. Bearing in mind the above, I was wondering what proof you had that producing oil in this way is any more “efficient” than in comparison to traditional farms, especially when sugars produced from traditional farming methods are used as feedstock for the algae? I guess another way of asking the question is: how are you defining efficiency?

Thanks guys!


I’m curious if the plant sugars are from stuff that is typically considered a waste product.

While I’m also interested in more information about the subject, I’d caution you that Motherboard - and, indeed, non of the properties - are especially reliable sources of information. They’re really more along the lines of “shock media.”


Growing algae in 500000 liter fermenters is much more effficient than any other form of algae farm. We are talking about 80% oil content. Also: synthetic sugars will probably be used in the future which will make it even more efficient.