But of course, all of this work and experimentation and discovery does not happen by magic. It requires funding — and the more the better.
Currently, the college only provides the team with a room to house its tanks and the lighting needed for experiments, though everything else — the necessary equipment, chemicals needed for analysis, etc. — is all either borrowed from other areas of the college or paid for out-of-pocket by team members or through donor generosity.
In an effort to try and lighten that financial load a bit — just one algae-growing tank can cost $4,000 — Kauffmann recently saw an opportunity to grow support for the AlgaeTown project by partnering with the crowdfunding group RocketHub.
Through that partnership, anyone visiting the RocketHub website, www.rockethub.com, simply has to do a quick search for AlgaeTown and they will be instantly transported to a dedicated AlgaeTown web page complete with videos, a detailed description of the project, and most importantly, the option to donate.
“Right now we’re doing crowdfunding on RocketHub to try and get enough money for things like paying for student work time so we can get more people working on the project more intensely,” Kauffmann said, “And also so we can get dedicated equipment that otherwise we’d have to share or just go without.”
In addition, Kauffmann noted that meeting the group’s financial goals would also allow the AlgaeTown team the ability to gather enough needed data to apply for advanced grants — grants which he said could help pay for things such as research infrastructure and expansion, product design and potentially manufacturing.
“People can also donate directly to the college,” Kauffmann said. “Basically you just write a check and in the memo write AlgaeTown, because there is an AlgaeTown account in Goshen.”
So, all funding considerations aside, where does Kauffmann see the program heading in the future?
“Right now there are two distinct paths we could take,” Kauffmann said. “One is, it turns out to be such a significant advantage over what’s currently available that we would pursue an Indiana Small Business grant, which would allow us to reduce the cost of production and allow us to start producing it for people that would be able to see the statistics and say, ‘Oh, this is much more effective than our current system.’ Then, if it’s really good, we might start a small scale farm and see if it would be profitable, and so people could eventually start opening up uncultivatable lands to cultivation of algae.”
And the other path?
“What’s more likely is it probably won’t be quite ready anytime soon, so then we’ll have to just keep working on it until we can demonstrate that it is in fact ready,” Kauffmann said. “But with what I’ve seen from it so far, even with just this system, excluding what other people are doing on research, I think this will be a viable alternative for fuel eventually. We’re just going to have to keep working at it.”