Getting Started

Thinking of microfarming spirulina algae? Use this GETTING STARTED CHECKLIST to see how your resources, qualifications, experience and financing match up for start up. The better you match up, the less costly, easier, faster and likely more successful venture. These 15 checkpoints below do not cover all the many questions that will arise, but are a good reference for an initial evaluation of a spirulina algae microfarm.

1. PHYSICAL RESOURCES. These have a major effect on start-up costs.
[_] Site location. Do you have a specific site already available?
Location, climate, sunshine and temperatures have a lot to do with how much algae you can produce in a growing season and the cost of production.
[_] Flat land. Will you need land leveling and grading?
Land improvements could add considerable cost.
[_] Infrastructure. Do you already have hookup for water, power, internet service?
These utilities can be costly to install depending on the site location.
[_] Greenhouse. Do you already have a functional greenhouse?
Greenhouses are necessary for growing spirulina algae in most climates.
[_] Buildings. Are there existing buildings you can use or repurpose?
Nearby building space is needed for office, laboratory, processing and products.
[_] Permits. Are buildings and agricultural activities permitted ?
You will need to comply with all local and state regulations for buildings and for growing and selling food.

2. QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE. Helpful for successfully operating a microfarm and marketing product.
[_] Experience growing food.
Are you already engaged in or do you have experience in growing food on a commercial scale?
It’s a big advantage having agricultural experience, knowing what it takes.
[_] Experience growing algae.
Do you have any experience in or knowledge of growing algae?
Most people don’t, of course, but experience managing successful algae culture, or even knowing people who can, would be a big plus.
[_] Marketing and selling product.
Do you have a plan how you will market and sell the products?
You will need to sell your first production in the local and regional market and know who you will sell to. If successful building this market, you can expand microfarm capacity in the following seasons.
[_] Experience consuming spirulina.
Have you personally consumed spirulina or other algae as a food supplement and understand the health benefits?

Successful growers are most likely also passionate consumers who enjoy turning other people on to the product.
[_] Part of a natural food, healthy lifestyle community and network.
Are you connected with the primary demographic target market for algae products?

It’s best if you can speak to their food and health issues and communicate how algae can benefit.
[_] Can handle regulations and permits.
Do you have experience getting permits for food products and processing?

Navigating local and state regulations is very important. Food regulations vary in different locales and can be challenging, but compliance is nevertheless essential.
[_] Emphasize quality control and assurance.
Do you have experience in food testing and quality assurance?

Selling food products to the public means selling a safe and healthy food. Independent laboratory testing must support food safety and nutrition claims.

3. FINANCING. Have the investment ready before you get started.
[_] Self-financing or friends and family investment.
Do you have start-up financing available now?

Don’t expect to raise start-up money somehow through grants or other sources.
[_] How much?
How many of the physical resources above do you have in place already?

This will greatly determine the size of your investment. Once land, buildings and infrastructure costs are determined and covered, you may need more than $100,000 to set up a 300 m2 pond area spirulina algae microfarm inside a greenhouse – for equipment, installation, supplies, fees, consulting and operating expenses for the first season.