Founder & CEO • Oasia Farms
video recorded via Zoom May 11, 2022
Summary: Dale Solomon is an algae entrepreneur in Southern California. After six months of research on growing spirulina and learning about the market, he started Oasia Farms, a greenhouse microfarm in 2017. With an engineering background, Dale has used instrumentation to help him understand spirulina patterns of behavior. Dale shows his solar panels to heat water to keep ponds warmer in the winter season, and adds CO2 to enhance productivity. Oasia Farms sells fresh and frozen spirulina direct to customers and online. Dale also sells fresh spirulina to other marketing companies. The product is selling out, and Dale is ready to expand.
Video clip: My name’s Dale, and this is Oasia Farms. We’re farming fresh spirulina here.
Q: Dale has a wonderful spirulina micro farm in Southern California, and he’s a spirulina entrepreneur, but comes from an engineering background.
I was at USC, someone did a presentation about algae biofuels. I was really drawn into it because of the potential for fighting climate change. Biofuels were a little bit more difficult to work financially. I still really love this algae stuff. How can I still be involved in this? And when you see those paddlewheels going, when you see a farm in action, it just draws you in. So then I learned about spirulina.
Q: When did you start your micro farm?
So I quit my job in June of 2017, got my first culture. By the end of that year, we actually launched a micro farm that I was able to harvest off of in the middle of 2018. We had a great season, got a good response from customers In 2019 we built a bigger farm and that’s where we’ve been ever since then.
Q: How did you do the research to learn about managing an algae culture?
The first six to nine months, were almost exclusively just researching, talking to people, and not just from a technological standpoint, but also learning about the market. I went to a farmer’s market where there was a spirulina farmer. Tried to teach myself too and let the spirulina be my teacher.
And you do that through instrumentation, by having all sorts of different ways to collect data, to better understand and start to see patterns of why does spirulina behave this way when these are the growing conditions. That’s how I’ve allowed the cultures to be the greatest teacher of all.
Video clip: We’ve got this lovely double layer greenhouse. It’s because temperature is one of the most important variables in growing spirulina.
Q: If you advised a new person like yourself to get involved in spirulina, how would they get started?
If I can copy what everyone else has done and just add my little bit of inspiration, make it this much better. You know, we really believe in continuous improvements.
These sensors that we’re gonna be putting in the pond to collect data on the cultures, the pH of ponds, the dissolved oxygen content, the density and nitrate levels. And you can get a tremendous amount of data about your ponds. So instead of unbeknownst you, the nitrate levels are dropping, dropping, dropping, or something else is going off, you can catch that problem before it happens.
Q: And that’s the whole idea of smart microform technology.
Yeah. And when you’re problem solving, you know, one of the biggest headaches is there’s 10, 20 different things it can be. If you can narrow it down, it’s definitely not the nitrate, it’s definitely not this. It’s definitely not that. That’s gonna make problem solving a lot easier and faster.
Q: And I was also excited to see your solar panels to heat water, to keep your ponds warm.
Video clip: Heat is the most important thing when you’re growing spirulina. The sun bakes down on these copper pipes that are under here, we pump it into the greenhouse.
The heat radiates out into the pond.
It definitely adds heat when we need it, in late fall, early spring, and even through the winter. I think that having a radiant system below the pond, would’ve been more ideal, although this does work.
Video clip: We’ve got these two massive food grade CO2 tanks. CO2 is a nutrient, just like any other nutrient.
So when we wanna know when to dose the ponds with CO2, we use a pH meter to measure that. Right around pH of 10.
Q: Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
Well, you know, we’d really like to partner up. There’s some other companies that have algae products that they’re selling online, fresh, frozen products. And I would like to focus on just being the best spirulina farmer that I can be, and growing a really high quality, very efficient product at an affordable price.
Video clip: If you want to try spirulina yourself, you can hop on our website. We sell one pound orders. That’s a one month supply, and you’ve really gotta try this to see the difference. So much fresher. And it’s a lot better for you too.
Q: Now you are selling primarily fresh and frozen spirulina. Do you plan to get into drying spirulina?
If we get to a point where not many more opportunities for the fresh frozen, my inclination would be to go with dehydration as opposed to any method that heats the product.
Q: When you look at spirulina, where do you see it in the next 5 or 10 years?
I think that there is gonna be a big move towards the fresh product. With supply chains being what they are, I that we’re gonna see a bit of a pullback from globalism.
We’re just selling out like crazy and people are clamoring for more, so we’re ready to expand.
Q: That’s great news because Dale, you’ve been a great supplier. I’ve been enjoying your fresh spirulina and my customers like it too.
Video clip: We really appreciate you guys for tuning in. It’s been a pleasure.
Dale Solomon • Oasia Farms • www.oasiafarms.com • firstname.lastname@example.org