Industrial agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions – but what if there was a way to sustainably produce food while solving some of the world’s toughest environmental problems? That’s what the folks at SPACE10, a Copenhagen-based future-living lab, tackled with the futuristic Algae Dome, a four-meter-tall food-producing building that pumps out oxygen in a closed-loop system. Powered by solar energy, the Algae Dome is a sustainable and hyper-local food system that can pop up almost anywhere with minimal impact on the environment.
Architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz, and bioengineer Keenan Pinto created the Algae Dome, which was presented at the CHART art fair in Copenhagen last week. Although SPACE10 has experimented with growing microgreens before, the team targets an even smaller food with the Algae Dome—micro-algae. Praised as a future “superfood,” micro-algae is said to contain twice as much protein as meat and is packed with vitamins and minerals, with more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than found in spinach, according to SPACE10. Even better? Micro-algae are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms and can be grown with sunshine and water almost anywhere, all while sucking up carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen in the process.
During the three-day CHART art fair, the Algae Dome produced 450 liters of micro-algae and provided an interactive architectural experience that was part food system, part furniture, and wholly educational. The large amount of food was produced in a surprisingly small amount of space thanks to the design that featured 320 meters of coiled tubing, showing off the flow of emerald green micro-algae. Visitors were invited to sit inside the pavilion and enjoy a “breath of fresh air” created by the micro-algae as it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. Packets of delicious spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) chips, created by SPACE10’s chef-in-residence Simon Perez, were placed around the pavilion to give passersby the chance to try the superfood.
“In the future, different species of microalgae could be used as a form of nutrient-rich food, as a replacement for soy protein in animal feed, in the development of biofuels, as a way to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and as a method of treating industrial wastewater,” said SPACE10. “In other words, microalgae could help combat malnutrition, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, help stop the destruction of the rainforest, improve air quality, and reduce pollution. Little wonder that microalgae has been dubbed the future’s sustainable super crop.” SPACE10 sees the Algae Dome as the prototype for food-producing architecture that could pop up virtually anywhere, from bus stops to apartment complexes.
Picture credit: Niklas Adrian Vindelev and Mike Chino