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Larry Switzer, visionary bioneer, founded Proteus Corporation in 1976 to develop spirulina algae as a world food resource. Proteus was funded by private California investors, committed to the spirulina vision. Larry was joined by Robert Henrikson and Dr. Alan Jassby, who helped design the early systems and cultivation programs. In early 1977 Larry and Robert left Berkeley for California’s hot Imperial Valley, ideal for growing spirulina.
For three years our small team sweated in the desert to build a successful farm model. The first growing ponds were underway, but in August 1977, Hurricane Doreen wiped out our farm – in the middle of 10 square mile flood under 4 feet of water. We asked our investors for more funding, relocated to a new site. Ron Henson showed up to help with construction, and eventually became Ops Manager of Earthrise Farms and Sales Manager for Earthrise. We developed larger growing ponds, tested harvesting and drying..
In 1978, we chose Earthrise as our trademark- NASA’s photo of the Earth rising from the moon’s surface. This image represents our awakening to a new Earth Rising. Earthrise sales and marketing were directed by Robert Bellows and Terry Cohen of Boulder, Colorado. Earthrise® began selling in natural food stores in 1979 and gained popularity fast.
We began looking for several million dollars for a commercial farm. We began importing spirulina, and developed a partnership with DIC, a Japanese corporation growing spirulina in Thailand. Together we founded Earthrise Farms, the first US production farm in 1982. By the 1990s, Earthrise became the world’s largest spirulina farm, and is operated today as Earthrise Nutritionals by DIC.