SabrTech to launch portable algae-growing system soon

[Canada] Nova Scotia-based SabrTech — which spent years designing an easy-to-transport algae-growing system called RiverBox — is planning to launch its product shortly, which the company says will revolutionize algae production.

SabrTech spent about two years developing its RiverBox system, which uses a standard shipping container with up to 10 tiers where algae grows, for use in aquaculture and other industries.

When the company first started, Carscallen said it was largely focused on creating huge algae plantations, but then shifted its focus to a system that could efficiently grow algae in a small area.

“We’re the only ones who grow in this manner, in shipping containers and on site. This simplicity has made us a unique player in the market…we want a system anyone could use,” he said.

The RiverBox, according to the company’s website, is a “deployable for on-site algae production anywhere in the world as a modular unit in a greenhouse, outdoors exposed to the sun or in a brick-and-mortar facility”.

Although Mather Carscallen, the company’s founder, president and CEO, wasn’t able to specify the exact launch date, he told Undercurrent News the company is just “waiting for a couple of things to close up, and then we’ll be able to launch”.

The RiverBox is aimed to produce algae for markets like aquaculture, fuel, neturaceutical, chemical and personal care, among others.

Focus on algae for aquaculture


“The aquaculture piece is really our focus now,” he said. “The aquaculture industry is becoming more and more important to everyone around the world.”

For now, Carscallen said most of the interest for algae in the industry is for waste-remediation, although in the future the algae could be processed into feed.

“I think that remediation will be the first to take off, and as the total production scale of algae increases, there will be more interest in utilizing it as a protein and feed source. Feed companies could set up contracts where they have collection trucks that buy and pick up all the algae produced from smaller farmers and then bring it back to their processing plant,” he said.

“As more algae companies become successful and the industry as a whole becomes more established, we will see a large focus on utilizing algae as a feed and protein source. The industry needs to start producing on a very large volume before large feed companies can incorporate it into their products.”

Lack of funding for algae

A lack of willing investors has been one of the main impediments to the development of a more robust algae industry, which currently puts most of its effort in developing algae for, high-value products like pharmaceuticals.

Investment was relatively high in algae production in the early 2000s, when biofuel development was looking promising amid high oil prices. When that industry crashed, many investors turned away, sticking only to established companies making high-value products.

“The majority of algae companies being funded are those that already have significant funding,” he said.

However Carscallen said he expects investor interest to rise in the next decade or so.

“Within five to ten years, we will see a significant rise in investments in algae technology. There will definitely be a shift towards feed and other low-value product, as the high-value product markets, such as pharmaceuticals, become saturated,” he said.

“It comes down to production economics, which is why we focused on redesigning how algae is produced, instead of the down stream processing of the biomass.”


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