A backgrounder for those of you who don't live in Berkeley: Spirulina is a superfood. A superfood, for those who aren't obsessed with nutritional fads, is a food that is off-the-charts rich in vitamins, minerals and other stuff that is obviously yet mysteriously Good For You. Despite their grandiose title, it is a great idea to eat these uncommon comestibles; however, spirulina in particular can be a bit of work to get your hands on. It's traditionally grown in small ponds—historically in a lake system in Chad of all places—and it looks, to those without deep enthusiasm for biology, like pond scum. This is not a sexy or garden-variety foodstuff, but once harvested and dried it's easily added to other foods or taken as a supplement... at a pretty high cost. But what if it wasn't hard to harvest?
Tom Vered of Grow Spirulina has adapted (and sells) a method of home growing spirulina, and he's upped his own ante with a new standalone design, ostensibly to be sold online soon. This 10-liter machine would combine the precise biochemical and mechanical needs of a growing zone with the user-friendliness of an at-home yogurt maker. Besides the thrill of owning a unique appliance, you'd get the added benefits of taking your spirulina fresh and getting way more oomph per scoop. The literature varies on the specific difference, but even as a superfood, spirulina loses a lot of nutritional value when dried.It also gains a more distinct taste. Liquid/fresh spirulina, on the other hand, blends more easily into more types of food and is packed with more body-support per oz. In their FAQ, Vered likens the benefits of fresh vs. dried as obvious: "Comparing fresh Spirulina to dried Spirulina, is like comparing fresh strawberry to strawberry powder. What would you rather eat?" Honestly, strawberry powder sounds amazing, but it's fresh strawberry season so I'll acknowledge the point.
While it might seem akin to growing your own wheatgrass next to your sink (i.e. more self-important than self-sustaining), spirulina hosts over 100 vitamins and is a complete protein—it and other additives can help round out our increasingly off-kilter diets in an agriculturally complicated modern era. Lowering the barrier between consumers and high-protein health food seems like a pretty legit idea.