EcoLogicStudio makes DIY algae kit for children learning at home in lockdown
BioBombola is an educational grow-your-own edible algae set for children developed by architecture and research practice EcoLogicStudio during the coronavirus pandemic.
The DIY kit can be used by families at home to cultivate a strain of Spirulina – a type of blue-green algae – that can be harvested and added to food and drinks as a source of protein.
BioBombola includes a one-metre-tall glass container called a photobioreactor, a 15-litre starter batch of spirulina cells, and a culture medium – a liquid or gel designed to support the growth of microorganisms – full of nutrients.
The kit also comes with a system of pipes and a pump to move air through the medium.
EcoLogicStudio founders Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto invented BioBombola to keep their children entertained while they homeschooled them during the coronavirus lockdown in London.
"The kids love harvesting Spirulina," said Pasquero.
"We make vegetable protein bread every week with it now. Spirulina has quite a sharp taste, somewhere between grass and nuts."
Growing the algae is an interactive lesson in photosynthesis, air pollution and sustainable food-growing methods.
The kit can absorb the equivalent of "two young trees" in carbon dioxide, said EcoLogicStudio, and releases the same amount of oxygen as "seven houseplants".
Children can help to harvest the algae multiple times a week, collecting up to seven grams of Spirulina a day.
The harvesting is done by using a pipe to syphon liquid from the photobioreactor, which is then passed through a filter to separate the Spirulina.
The BioBombola is designed to be simple to set up and maintain – all it needs is to be placed near a window or a grow lamp.
Interacting with the process is a hands-on way for children to learn how plants can purify the air and provide edible nutrients.
Air bubbling through the medium also makes a soothing background sound.
As well as providing parents with a tool for home learning, BioBombola is part of a wider project to educate society on more sustainable ways of living with nature in cities, EcoLogicStudio said.
"We believe that this product will contribute to re-design some of the logic that led us to the current health crisis," said Pasquero and Poletto.
"If we, collectively, transform air pollutants into highly nutritious aliments there will be fewer opportunities for viruses to exploit unsustainable food supply chains and for polluted atmospheres to reach and attach to us."
BioBimbola was developed as part of Photo.Synth.Etica, a research programme with Synthetic Landscape Lab IOUD at Innsbruck University and Urban Morphogenesis Lab BPRO at The Bartlett that is engineering sustainable solutions for the Anthropocene, our current geological age.
An earlier part of this project saw EcoLogicStudio use algae to create a living curtain that can be draped over building facades.
Photography is by NAARO.
Project: EcoLogicStudio (Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto)
Design and prototyping team: Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto with Georgios Drakontaeidis, Riccardo Mangili, Eirini Tsomokou
Academic partners: Synthetic Landscape Lab IOUD Innsbruck University, Urban Morphogenesis Lab BPRO The Bartlett UCL