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Micro-Algae Factories Could Be A Food And Energy Source For The Home

What looks like a household bauble accessory actually satisfies some of homeowners daily needs.

Rachel Pincus
Rachel Pincus on February 11, 2014.

We’re used to keeping certain types of plants in our homes, and research is increasingly finding some very concrete health benefits to simply keeping a pretty, healthy plant around. But these days, a plant’s got to earn its keep in more ways than one. Innovative systems like the AquaFarm remind us of the interdependency of all life while maintaining themselves and even providing food. Now a new set of interior architecture components could bring a new type of productive plant into the household while literally integrating them into the home. The WaterLilly ‘smart creatures,’ photo-bio reactive household elements conceived in 2012 by Italian designer Cesare Griffa, exploit new discoveries about the potential of algae for food, light and energy while looking great in a living room.

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The WaterLilly ‘family’ is designed to be interactive, reacting to human activity as well as to other members of the system that are nearby. They love social activity and keep you notified on their chemical activities like carbon-fixing, making for a great party plant. Since the conditions for growing algae are very precise and will require different adjustments depending upon the precise conditions in one’s home, multiple WaterLillies will also communicate with each other and alter their activity according to the environment, creating, Griffa says, “the conditions for a connective intelligence based on open knowledge sharing.” They will still require some feeding, however, in the form of light, mineral salts, and carbon dioxide. The algae are ”timid organisms who do not disdain company,” he told Wired UK.

The WaterLilly also happens to be on the cutting edge of a series of discoveries that have found algae biomass to be a potential source for environmentally friendly fuel. Though it will be a while before fuel conversions could be done in one’s own home, creating a good supply of raw materials has been a challenge in the past for the development of green energy, and the idea of growing fuel in one’s own home neatly sidesteps many such supply problems while creating the potential for self-sufficient energy production. The biomass is also edible, but human food preferences will likely take longer to change than the continual thirst for green energy.

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The kits are assembled by Griffa out of open-source software and components; most of the changes in its activity are actually just the result of its LED lights changing color and intensity. Though you can buy a kit, you can also assemble one yourself; the wip project kit can be found here.

Cesare Griffa

Sources: Wired UK, Bayer Advanced, WaterLilly Ma&Pa, WaterLilly Gramp, TinkerKit

Images: Cesare Griffa

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