Monday, July 27, 2015

Algae progress

It's been a busy week, with all kinds of family stuff going on and home remodeling getting done.  I'm also looking to start a career as a trucker.  Once I'm on the road and settled into the routine, I hope to be able to return to working on my master's degree in biological chemistry.  I actually barely passed chemistry in college, but it's really the biggest part of farming.  Understanding all the processes that are involved in the transitions between different forms of nitrogen in the soil is what farming is all about.  It's also a big part of raising livestock. 

So, I'm pretty sure that the soda ash which I acquired from a pool supply store has something which is limiting the growth of the spirulina.  It lists a 2% impurity, but that could be anything, including some pretty caustic residues from manufacturing.  Regardless, the algae is growing, but also dying off and clumping up pretty bad. 

Baking soda can take water to a pH of approximately 8.3.  Balancing different alkalinity sources may be key to producing a perfect solution with minimal inputs. I may try a solution using ammonia (11) to raise the pH, but it's doubtful that it would be successful since it's known that ammonia reduces populations.  Still, it may be more successful then the caustic soda that we're currently using.  Balancing the pH is arguably the most important part of successfully cultivating algae.  Also, I'm wondering if I might be able to use a solution of baking soda to calibrate my pH meter, since it didn't come with a calibration solution.  It's approximately correct, but accuracy is important.

Also, the live filter buckets (2.0) are almost ready for a test run.  So exciting to see an idea come to fruition.  A successful test doesn't always result in the expected outcome because often the most learning and discovery comes from failed experiments.

So much cleaning and organizing to do. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Organic fertilizer companies

Some organic fertilizer companies

 Looking for non-sterilizing, soluble or semi-soluble chemical fertilizers for spirulina growing and in order to produce a liquid fertilizer for my garden.  Some possible components are:

  • Potassium Nitrate (13-0-46)
  • Sodium Nitrate
  • Urea (46-0-0) ($33.99)
  • Sulfate of Potash (0-0-50) ($45)
  • Soft Rock Phosphate ($24.99)
  • calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) ($39.99)
  • triple superphosphate (0-45-0) ($29.99)
  • precipitated bone meal (0-18.5-0) ($38.99)
  • Suppli-mate K-Mag (0-0-18) ($32.99)
  • Triple-Pro YaraMila (15-15-15) ($35.99)
  • glacial rock dust
  • actinovate
  • canadian kelp (1-0.15-2) ($69.99)
  • beet pulp ($11.25)
  • rice bran ($11.45)
  • alfalfa pellets ($14.95)
  • basalt / granite rock dust

Some fertilizer formulations

Organic Fertilizer #1 - Costs same as NPK fertilizer per N in 50# quantities, and is slow release over time and provides many additional micronutrients and phyto-compounds as well as builds soil and increases structure and porosity over time.  In our operations, we ferment the ingredients together and then blend into the compost and allow it to age for a few weeks before applying to the soil.  It's non-burning, but the fermentation process makes the nutrients available to the plants much quicker.  There is some possibility that some of the nitrogen may be releasing into the atmosphere during the fermentation process.  I am still learning about the nitrogen cycle and how nitrogen behaves during the fermentation process.
  • Alfalfa
  • Rice Bran
  • Beet Pulp
Chemical Fertilizer #1 - Provides the big three NPK and sulfur.  Additional important nutrients to consider adding in smaller quantities include iron, calcium, zinc, boron and magnesium depending on the specific plant. 
  • Urea
  • Sulfate of Potash
  • Triple Superphosphate
Fermented Fertilizer #1 - Using Chem#1 as the basic nutrient source, fermenting with molasses and micronutrient sources like oyster shell flour, glacial rock powder and/or specific nutrients like:

  • zinc sulfate
  • ferrous sulfate
  • magnesium sulfate

Fertilizer Summary

Solubility of chemical fertilizers and specific control over nutrient content is a real advantage in many situations compared with natural fertilizers and soil amendments which may provide higher quality nutrition, but without control over time-availability.  On a farm, with actual soil, my preference is to apply manures and agricultural residues, perhaps with some fermentation before application to speed availability and prevent negative types of biological activity like molding and creation of rancidity or other noxious odors while the residues are decaying.  Even a short soaking in innoculant before application can speed nutrient availability and significantly reduce possibility of negative biological activity.

I've been working with food wastes, developing processes for decaying them and applying them without odors, but there is definitely a stigma associated with their processing.  Store owners look at me like I'm insane when I tell them that I want their garbage.  There's a lot of labor associated with separating them from the garbage stream and processing them safely, and it's just so much cheaper to purchase agricultural residues like soybean meal or cottonseed meal.  Agricultural residues are also generally more nutritious for the soil and provide a more balanced nutritional profile.

I am learning a lot about biological processes and how they effect microorganisms while learning about algae production.  One of my goals is to produce algae for livestock feed using composted waste products as a nutrient source.  There is a lot of labor involved, but it seems like a viable process.  I am also learning a lot about porosity and filtration techniques used to prepare the effluent since clarity effects the ability of light to penetrate to all the individual cells of algae, which in turn has an effect on production density, or the ability to achieve a high density of algae.

Other possible products:
  • Lactic bacteria culture
  • spirulina culture
  • spirulina salt mixture
  • biologically active fertilizer
  • beet juice

Other sites:
  • CDFA
  • AZOMITE composition
  • oyster shell flour

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Low-tech Spirulina Cultivation


Spirulina is quite hardy and is fairly easy to produce.  That being said, it's important to prevent drastic changes in the environment in order to maximize productive efficiency.   We start with a small culture, and place it in a 2 Liter bottle of culturing media with an aquarium bubbler, set on a regular timer, in a moderately sunny window.

Since we do not know the levels of pH and salinity originally used in our new culture, we add a few drops of our media to the culture, slowly acclimatizing it.

Culturing Media

This is a recipe for culturing media, adapted from several sources, using the cheapest, simplest ingredients available:

Starter Media (2 L):

  • Sodium Carbonate (soda ash) - 2 tsp - Products sold for use in pools often contain additional compounds.  Stick with lab or technical grade.  The arm and hammer laundry soda seems to be ok.
  • Sea Salt (NaCl) - .5 tsp - Provides micronutrients and sodium.
  • Compost tea (2 L) - Properly filtered, this provides soluble minerals
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp - Adjusts pH
  • Potassium Nitrate - 1/2 tsp - Provides extra Nitrogen in order to increase density potential. 
It is important to have sufficient sodium, carbon, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.  Additionally, micronutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium are important elements for the algae's growth.  We have had success using mineral rock powder for micronutrients without clouding the media excessively.

Replacement Media:

As you harvest, you will need to replace minerals taken out by the spirulina.  I am currently working on a suitable non-sterlizing fertilizer blend.  There aren't many vendors in this area who deal in the various fertilizers that are available.

Other Notes

Do not use Miracle-gro, or any other fertilizer that contains muriate of potash as a potassium source.  In liquid, this element breaks down to potassium and chlorine, which will sterilize your colony, just as it sterilizes soil. 

Urea is a decent protein source in moderation, but it can overload your culture, so be careful.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

A message to my daughter

Some important things to remember:

  • Gambling is a tax on people who are bad at math
  • Remain calm no matter what
  • Brush your teeth
  • Be valuable to people
  • I will always love you
  • Eat veggies
  • Exercise
  • Get regular rest
  • Good work is rewarding
  • You are beautiful

I do not know what I could have done to help you more/better.   You are a brilliant person.  Your smile can brighten the darkest soul, and your anger could sink a million ships.  Effective creativity requires effort.

Eliminate conflict.  Resolve issues.  Care about what your opponent wants.  Save people's lives.  Benefit people.   You have an insightful ability to slice open problems and generate solutions which benefit all effected parties.  You also have a natural ability to notice people's best traits and to learn from them.


paulownia is a species of tree that grows quickly once established, and is commonly used as a biomass fuel stock and to mitigate erosion in disturbed soils.

paulownia leaf
Additionally, it is drought resistant and 'a heavy feeder', meaning the roots of this tree easily absorb nitrogen from the soil, even when it is applied in non-organic forms.

compost yard

the roots of the paulownia tree have trouble penetrating dense soils, like those here in california, so heavy composting is required.  luckily there is a municipal compost facility nearby which produces a decent product at a reasonable price.

solar power
The leaves are also useful as a feedstock for ruminants such as goats, sheep or cattle.

Paulownia seedlings are easily removed and are usually killed by environmental factors before establishment.  Fully established trees require application of glyphosate or triclopyr to prevent resprouting from energy stored in the roots.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

3000 words

Gaining fluency in a language, as a native speaker involves developing skillful usage of around 3000 words.  It is possible to learn 3000 pieces of information with a little effort and modern technology in a very short period of time.  the goal of this project is to make accomplishing this task as easy as possible for as many people as possible. 

Common language courses teach a few common words, and occasionally provide a few sentences demonstrating their usage.  A child hears words used thousands of times before they begin to use them.  Using learning technology developed in the seventies and eighties by scientists around the world, we have designed a system to build fluency.  With 10 minutes a day, a person can gain fluency in less then a month using our system.



  • ergonomic access/interface
  • simple/effective design
  • monetizing strategy
  • goal accomplishment [fluency]


  • flashcards
  • sentence text file
  • phone apps
  • video files

Dark matter

His right antennae twitched nervously as his temporal mandibles manoeuvred the controls deftly to position the solar panels.  The routines that he followed had been drilled relentlessly in training exercises from the day that he hatched from his egg, back in the hive.  His movements resembled those of a machine, intent on accomplishing the prescribed task, and the slight twitching, of his right antennae, resembled the blinking of a hardware light on a device, merely acknowledging that the computational resources were currently being consumed and were not available for lower priority contemplation.

Factual negligences occupied his attention like honey coated flies.  His daily routine sputtered and floundered along day after day like a herd of underwater cattle attempting to cross a shallow land-bridge in some kind of migratory trek to better feeding grounds in the deeper, warmer waters off the coast of some planet lost in the millions of habitable planets which statistically must exist somewhere in the space-time continuum all around us.

Nowhere was his ignorance more apparent then at that very moment when his mouth opened and he attempted to impress whichever entity had happened to subject itself to his inane, low-tech rambling about whatever was written on the third page of the daily newspaper as was his habit.

Inconsistencies had begun to appear on the spectral analysis, disturbing the patterns which normally accompanied the technician through his daily routines at the magnetic-velocity-resonance terminal.  At near-light speeds, this particular ship required a deft hand to avoid slamming into any of the dark matter clouds which littered open space between universe's.  Normally, the patterns were simple and easy to extrapolate into matter-type/navigation decisions, but these irregularities hadn't appeared in any of the manuals that she had been trained on as a child.  Since she was born, on a ship travelling at ever-increasing speeds, towards a distant solar system, which has only a reasonable likelihood of containing a habitable planet, and which wouldn't be reached by her ship until several generations after her death, yet she continued to manage the magnetic oscillation networks which protected the ship as it passed through these abnormalities.

By now, the ships that were leaving home-port were fully automated and required much less human attention during their 300 year flights off into the unknown.  Passengers on those flights would go to sleep and wake up several hundred years older and look out their viewports at a habitable planet.  No inter-flight generations were required.

She flicked off her headset and leaned back in her seat, which automatically detected her relaxed position and changed her display to relaxing nature scenes from 'back home'. 

Her last work period was spent adjusting training materials for the next generation to account for changes in available information concerning their destination. 

wondering about things

I've discovered something about you.  Your time is incredibly valuable.  Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the President of the United States, or a CEO of some multi-national corporation?  Their time is worth thousands of dollars a minute and it's scheduled down to the second.  If they require an extra 2 minutes pooping in the morning, then their entire schedule has to get adjusted.

That's valuable time.

So why is their time so valuable?  Are their brains different then yours?  Your time is just as valuable as theirs, if you value it that much.  If you take the time to consider what you're doing and how you're spending your time, then you're time is that valuable, or more valuable for that matter.

My brain has been spinning a lot lately.  I cut way back on sugar and started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables.  Also, I've been growing some really cool plants and including them in my diet.

moringa oleifera blossoms

  • Moringa Oleifera
  • Jiaogulan
  • Goji Berry
Modern medicine is really impressively advanced, and there are some very effective plant based remedies and treatments as well.  It's sad for me when I go to the doctor's office and the people who work there have diabetes, which is a highly curable condition.  Many people who suffer from diabetes could be completely cured with just a little diet adjustment.  That's not provable with a double blind study, because you can't give someone a placebo healthy diet containing healthy levels of fiber with every meal and plant based lipids.

Also, exercise can help you achieve awesomeness if you couple it with a really excellent diet.  Of course, designing and building a pattern of healthy eating is  difficult when you don't have a role model to help you.

where's my baby

If you're a caring, loving, thoughtful parent, then most likely at some point of your child's life, you have had that dream, where you can't find them.  I had that dream several years ago and I still remember the panic and fear that I felt running around in this underground mall looking for my daughter.

 If you ever do have that dream, you're welcome to realize it's just a dream and your child is actually in your pocket or floating around your head like an insect.  Lately, my child has been making commentaries on my dreams, which is slightly disconcerting.  Luckily, i don't dream very often.  She pops in with her little cute little voice and tells me some little tidbit of information.  She's the awesomest.