Your Algae Library

by Mark Edwards

O ne of the most important questions people ask about the algae industry is “What are the books that I should read?” Unfortunately, algae enthusiasts not trained in science cannot understand the dense science required to decipher the biotechnology handbooks and texts. Therefore, I often recommend these sources in reverse order; based on readability. For people trained in science, the list is straightforward.

Handbook of Microalgal Culture: Biotechnology and Applied Phycology

Amos Richmond. Ed. Handbook of Microalgal Culture: Biotechnology and Applied Phycology Oxford, England: Blackwell Science, Ltd., 2004
If I were limited to one book on algae, the Handbook would be my first choice. My second choice may be the Handbook published by Amos Richmond two decades earlier. Amos Richmond wrote a superb introduction and organized his book logically in terms of understanding algal physiology, biology, culturing needs, responses to stressors and culturing techniques. Qiang Hu contributed two excellent chapters including: “Environmental Effects on Cell Composition and Industrial Production of Microalgal Cell-Mass” and “Secondary Products–Major Industrial Species.” William Vermaas contributed a strong chapter on “Targeted Genetic Modification of Cyanobacteria: New Biotechnological Applications.” The only problem with the Handbook is the list price at $350. Few libraries can afford to offer the Handbook.

Robert A. Andersen, Algal Culturing Techniques, Academic Press, 2005.
Robert Andersen brought together many old and new algal culturing methods in highly readable and easy to follow order. The book covers automated isolation and counting of algal cells and the use of cultures as a way to prevent extinction of threatened species. The methods chapters, e.g., Andersen and Kawachi on microalgal isolation techniques, are very detailed, providing easy to follow instructions, complete with supplies needed and sources, on how to do particular tasks. The Phycological Society of America enables a free download of Algal Culturing Techniques in PDF.

Graham, James, Lee Wilcox and Linda Graham. Algae. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2009.
Algae is an excellent, well organized textbook on phycology: the study of algae. The text includes numerous illustrations with breakout boxes that are readable and useful. Algae is organized by species and type and covers the physiology and characteristics of the major varieties of algae. Algae includes a fascinating chapter on a topic critical to the survival of our food supply—terrestrial algae.

E. W. Becker, Microalgae: Biotechnology and Microbiology, Cambridge University Press; 2008.
This excellent text by Wolfgang Becker lists as a 2008 copyright but is actually the first edition from 1994. Becker deserves his superb reputation in the field as he covers all the major issues required to culture and produce algae and other microorganisms. Becker covers all aspects of algae with a special emphasis on algae’s value as food and feed. He should receive the Nobel Prize for his insights on algae as a solution to human food and animal feed. His insights on algae’s ability to provide therapeutic solutions were 20 years ahead of others.

Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports and Engineer Sustainable Food and Fuel

Mark R. Edwards. Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports and Engineer Sustainable Food and Fuel, Tempe: CreateSpace, 2008.
Green Algae Strategy has been near the top of Amazon’s best-selling algae books for nearly three years. Green Algae Strategy was awarded the Independent Publishers’ 2009 Best Science Book. I believe the algae value proposition is so important that people may download a free color PDF of Green Algae Strategy at and Professors and teachers in over 20 countries use Green Algae Strategy for courses in food, energy, business, sustainability, world future, social issues, biotechnology, engineering, social entrepreneurship, biophysics and medicine. Green Algae Strategy outlines solutions to our food, energy, fuel, clean water and air pollution. Green Algae Strategy provides a vision with detail about how algae can benefit us now, tomorrow, and well into the future. From an Amazon reviewer: “Best futurist book with practical solutions I’ve ever read.”

M. E. Gershwin and Amha Belay, Eds. Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health, CRC Press, 2007.
Gershwin and Belay made substantial contributions to this edited science book. Amha Belay, CEO of Earthrise Nutraceuticals, is one of the world’s leading spirulina scientists and his edits and observations make this book extraordinary. Producers will enjoy the deep secrets associated with growing continuous stable cultures. My favorite chapter focuses on the empirical evidence supporting a wide range of therapeutic applications for human health and vitality.

Spirulina World Food

Robert Henrikson, Spirulina World Food: How this microalgae can transform your health and you our planet, Ronore Enterprises,, 2010.
Robert Henrikson, ex-CEO of Earthrise Nutraceuticals and longtime marketing VP, updated his classic Earth Food Spirulina. Spirulina World Food may be the most readable and informative reference guide to edible microalgae. Henrikson’s book is my first recommendation when students and new algae enthusiasts ask for more information on algae foods. Students are thrilled with Spirulina World Food because the pictures and graphics engage the reader and convey the value proposition. The chapter on Spirulina in the Developing World lays out a strong path forward for moderating malnutrition, poverty and hunger. The final chapter on microalgae’s role in restoring our planet covers new ground and is worth several times the price of the book. Robert Henrikson makes the prior edition available for free PDF download at and

The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century

Dr. Dickson Despommier, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, Thomas Dunne Books, 2010.
Columbia professor Dickson Despommier advocates vertical farms as a solution to world hunger. He mentions algae only once but the growing settings would be effective with algae. The Vertical Farm advocates vertical greenhouses and is high on vision but light on practicality. No effort is made to estimate a cost / benefit or payback from constructing vertical growing structures. The excellent drawings may be viewed on the web site.

Other valuable sources include the following:

Feed Our World

  • Winne, Mark. Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, Beacon Press, 2009.
  • Patel, Raj. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, Melville House, 2008.
  • Hinrichs, C. Clare and Thomas A. Lyson, Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability, University of Nebraska Press, 2009.
  • Federico, Giovanni. Feeding the World: An Economic History of Agriculture, 1800-2000, Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • Mark R. Edwards. Crash! The Demise of fossil Foods and the Rise of Abundance, Tempe: CreateSpace, 2009.
  • Mark R. Edwards, Green Solar Gardens: Algae’s Promise to end Hunger, Tempe: CreateSpace, 2009.

Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture

  • Arden B. Andersen. Science in Agriculture: Advanced Methods for Sustainable Farming, Acres USA, 2000.
  • Clay, Jason. World agriculture and the environment, Washington: Island Press, 2004.
  • Mark R. Edwards. Abundance: A Green Algae Strategy for Sustainable Food, Tempe: CreateSpace, 2010.


  • Sandra Postel, Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.
  • Magdoff, Fred and Ray R. Weil. Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture (Advances in Agroecology), New York: CRC Press, 2004.
  • Plaster, Edward J. Soil Science and Management, 5th. Ed., Delmar Cengage Learning; 2008.
  • Edwards, Mark. Smartcultures: Sustainable Food despite Climate Change and the Mass Extinction of Fossil Resources, Tempe: CreateSpace, 2010.

Food, Energy and Economics

  • Thomas L. Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America, Farrar and Giroux, 2008.
  • Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 4th Ed., W. W. Norton; 2009.
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, Penguin Press HC, 2008.
  • Smil, Vaclav. Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years, The MIT Press, 2008.


  • Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Bloomsbury, 2006.
  • Peter H. Gleick, The World’s Water 2006-2007: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources, Island Press, 2006.
  • Fred Pearce, When the Rivers Run Dry: Water—The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century, Beacon Press, 2007.
  • Glennon, Robert Jerome. Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It, Island Press, 2009.