Innovation: Kuehnle Algae Replaces Oil


Hawaii spends $5 billion a year on imported oil, but biofuels that can replace oil usually require a lot of agricultural land.


Using its library of algae strains, Kuehnle AgroSystems says it can select, analyze and optimize algae for specific growing environments. Using relatively little land, KAS’s algae can become a valuable biofuel.

How it works 

With funding from the government-financed Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture, KAS developed a small Photo Bioreactor that stimulates the algae to reproduce exponentially. KAS is now working to produce larger units that can pipe carbon dioxide and wastewater from an industrial facility into tanks to accelerate algae growth.

Next step

KAS has created about 5,000 liters of algae, and aims to have 50,000 liters in 12 months. “We are basically a research and development company that now is transitioning to a product-focused company,” says Mark Ritchie, director of business development.


While algae biomass is cleaner for the environment, it costs more to produce than the price of oil. “The cost needs to be down enough so that it will be competitive enough with petroleum,” 
CEO Heidi Kuehnle says.

1. Algae grows in a photobioreactor, where tubes are exposed to light.

2. Algae is harvested and concentrated.

3. Most water is removed to make the concentrated algae product.

4. The concentrate is shipped to algae growers and aquaculture facilities.


Know about a great innovation?
Send your idea to and type “Innovation” in the subject line.

Categories: Business & Industry, Innovation, Natural Environment, Sustainability