designer maurizio vrenna has introduced the ‘algae grower’, an innovative home device for the cultivation and semi-automatic collection of spirulina. the product is the outcome of a joint practice-based PhD research between politecnico di torino (turin, italy) and tsinghua university (beijing, china). 

algae grower 1the algae grower – spirulina culture illuminated by LED light

all images by li tian 



with the global population exponentially growing, and the finiteness of agricultural lands becoming more clear, ‘finding alternative sustainable ways to produce food is imperative’ maurizio vrenna shares.  microalgae have many properties, and some particular strains are gaining popularity as a food supplement, due to their high amount of protein, and high consumer acceptance. thus, the research designers have decided to create a convenient tool that can be used daily to produce edible algae.

algae grower 2
device off (no lighting and bubbling)



the algae grower can produce about 5 grams of biomass per day in ideal conditions, which is enough to satisfy the average adult’s needs. the product adopts the principles of photobioreactors, providing the culture with light, heat, and air bubbling. after a few days, the spirulina is ready to be harvested and easily collectible in a drawer – it can be consumed fresh or dried.

algae grower 3
easy-to-open top lid – the handle is ergonomic



featuring a user interface with just a few buttons, this device incorporates premium finishes and a high level of engineering. the overall size is 40 cm height by 18 cm width, with a 4 liters tank. it can be placed in the kitchen, as well as in the living room. 

algae grower 4

detail of the opened top lid and the silkscreened logo



the instructions for the self-production of the algae grower have been published online on wikifactory, a social platform for collaborative product development to guarantee a more widespread diffusion of the product. makers from all over the world can download the files, ask questions, start discussions, and actively contribute to the projects’ development. in this way, microalgae production, which usually takes place in large plants, can be decentralized, creating a resilient system of small urban producers.

algae grower 5
detail of the front of the device: closed drawer and spirulina harvesting button

algae grower 6
buttons on the back of the device and power plug socket connector – icons are laser-engraved on the buttons.

algae grower 7
detail of the central LED lighting system while the tank is filled with alive spirulina inoculum

algae grower 8
front drawer – the inner part is removable to facilitate the change of the harvesting net if broken

algae grower 9
internal components, air and water pipes, and various cabling



project info:


name: algae grower

lead designer/researcher: maurizio vrenna

product engineering: sun yu-chi

thanks to: prof. pier paolo peruccio, prof. liu xin, dr. zhong fang



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom