Unlock the Benefits of Microalgae


The Aquaculture Innovation Center (AIC) has a traditional batch and semi-continuous algal production system. It is primarily used to:

  • feed broodstock, such as larval and post-set Eastern oysters, surfclams, hard clams, ribbed mussles and bay scallops;
  • support the production of seed larvae for aquaculturists; and,
  • feed organisms, such as ribbed mussels and horseshoe crabs, used for research conducted in the Delaware Bay.

The algae and the biochemicals extracted from it can also be used to support the food and pharmaceutical industries, enhance food quality for humans and improve the shellfish cultured for human consumption.

The Coulter counter and photo-bioreactor have been instrumental in furthering the AIC’s algal nutraceutical initiative. As part of this initiative, the Center has experimented with various photo-bioreactor designs to see if they can further enhance nutraceutical aquaculture and the food supply for shellfish.

Coulter Counter and Photo-Bioreactor

In 2012, the AIC was awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase a Coulter counter and a photo-bioreactor.

Coulter counters use electrical resistance to quickly and accurately determine cell counts for microalgae cultures. On a daily basis, this information is used to determine culture density, which assists in determining how much to feed the animals we are growing. It can also be used to support research and development, such as feeding depletion rate studies, suspended particulate assays and monitoring larval shellfish food uptake.

Photo-bioreactors provide optimum conditions for the growth of microalgae: for light, carbon dioxide, nutrients and temperature. With our traditional culture methods, we can produce 250-L of standardized algal culture (Tisochrysis, Isochrysis or Pavlova equivalent) at a density of about 8 million cells per mL once per week per vessel. With the controlled photo-bioreactor designs currently being developed, we are growing cultures up to four times as dense that can be harvested twice per week per vessel. This allows us to produce biomass in the amounts needed to run a wide array of assays and to also create the biosynthesis necessary to develop novel or valuable compounds.

Other Uses of Algae

  • Air and water purification
  • Animal feeds
  • Agrochemicals
  • Biofuels
  • Carbon dioxide sequestration
  • Industrial products, including renewable fuels
  • Phycocolloids
  • Phycosupplements
  • Research applications
  • Sea vegetables
  • Soil additives
  • Technological processes involving algae may be patented and form the basis for new companies or industries

Algal Species/Strains Produced

Currently grown algal species include those strains specifically catered towards shellfish feed as well as those being studied for nutraceutical/pharmaceutical products. Strains grown for shellfish feed and research include Tisochrysis lutea, Isochrysis galbana, Pavlova pinguis, Pavlova lutheri, Tetraselmis suecica, Tetraselmis chuii, Nannochloropsis sp., Thallasiosira weissflogii and Thallasiosira pseudonana. Strains grown for photo-bioreactor research and development as well as nutraceutical research include Nannochloropsis salina, Spirulina major, Arthrospira platensis, Parachlorella kessleri, Nitschzia sp. and others.

Animals Successfully Cultured at the AIC with the Cultured Microalgae Diet

  • Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica
  • Hard Clam, Mercenaria mercenaria
  • Ribbed Mussel, Geukensia demissa
  • Dwarf Surfclam, Mulina lateralis
  • Atlantic Surfclam, Spisula solidissima
  • Bay Scallop, Argopecten irradians

Aquaculture Innovation Center