A revolution of decentralization in green energy and environmental protection is approaching – a grassroots, DIY movement that let's people make their own energy from one of the fastest growing natural feedstocks: pond scum. Harmful algae blooms (HABs) are on the rise, and so far, state, regional and federal government have been at a loss for how to get the runaway growth, which often leads to fish kills, anaerobic conditions, and toxic water responsible for killing pets.
The Manatee is a simple, robust automated algae eating machine. You can build one yourself with off-the-shelf parts, and deploy it in your local waterway experiencing a HAB. Our team is working on a set of easy-to-follow plans as we build out the first West Coast robot.
Follow our progress, and support us by sponsoring an individual component of the "Manatee 2.0."
While some environmental agencies have attempted to treat water with chemicals or mechanically harvest the excess with barges, a more ecological approach was discovered by Rudy Behrens – founder of Solaris Cybernetics – with his biofuel-producing robot, the “Manatee.”
Like the fully aquatic and mostly herbivorous sea cows, Manatee robots become a part of the water ecosystem, harvesting excess growth and converting it into a useful paraffin fuel. No chemicals, no waste, and no aquatic animals harmed in production.
The first manatee was launched in 2015 in a rural Pennsylvania farm pond, which had been experiencing a harmful algae bloom and fish die-off. The noxious odor made the cows on the farm think twice before drinking out of the pond until Rudy approached the owners about demonstrating the technology. Soon, algae levels returned to normal healthy levels. The robot continues to operate to this day – aerating the water column, checking out-of-control blooms, and producing a steady flow of biofuel to power the farm’s tractors (plus the occasional barbeque).
Our Bay Area-based team is taking the concept to the next level by producing the first west coast prototype – the Manatee II. As we build, we will be producing a set of plans and educational materials to instruct ecological entrepreneurs, educators, and DIY enthusiasts who want to restore local bodies of water to health with cost-effective solutions.
Our next steps include publishing the plans and selling kits with the smaller components (including electronics) for DIYers to run with the concept, adapting it to their region’s needs and innovating on the process. A limited-use license will be granted for all non-commercial use. Commercial users are required to give 3% of fuel revenues in exchange for licensing the technology.
The west coast teams concept build.
The original Manatee operating in a Pennsylvania farm pond, which returned the water to health while providing the farmer with fuel for his tractors.
A larger Manatee concept designed for greater clean-up capacity and higher daily production
The west coast teams concept build.
How it works
The patented system (U.S. Patent #7750494) cultivates and converts aquatic biomass into synthetic fuel, using wind and solar energy. The system's “brain” is made up of an array of light sensors that seek out cyanobacteria (aka pondscum) before it forms into a toxic algae bloom. Depending on energy available and biomass in the region, the robot can harvest up to 10 gallons of fuel per day.
This system of robotic algae removal can be used in any marine environment that has an overgrowth of algae. Currently, Solaris Cybernetics is working with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to build robots that can alleviate the red tide conditions in its lakes and estuaries. We plan to pitch agencies responsible for water quality in nearby ponds and lakes, as well as marinas and government authorities in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta.
If you would like to help, sponsor us!
Your donations can go toward the purchase of specific parts. Rewards listed below.
A. Specialized End Caps
E. PVC end fitting cap
F. 2" PVC x 10'
G. 2" PVC 4-way fitting
H. 2" PVC tee fitting
I. 2" PVC elbow fitting
J. 4" pontoon x 10'
$2.89 x 2
$2.00 x 8
$12.00 x 4
$8.97 x 4
$4.00 x 5
$4.00 x 4
$3.00 x 4
$80.00 x 4
K. Wind turbine
L. Wind turbine mount
M. Photopopper controller
N. Light sensing diode array
O. Plant stress glasses filter
P. IR sensors
Q. Plastic enclosure
R. Audio capacitor 2F x 2
S. Solar panel x 2 x 1
T. Thruster/bilge pump x 2 x 1
Fuel conversion parts
U. 55 gallon drum
V. 2" PVC tee fitting
W. 2" PVC elbow joints
X. Drum frame
Y. 12V algae pump
$3.00 x 3
$2.00 x 4
The idea behind the Algae Robot spawned from Founder Rudy Behrens of Solaris Cybernetics. With his patent and our entrepreneurial drive our goal is to build the first robot in the Bay Area. Other deliverables we wish to share with donors will be a set of build instructions, a Bill of Materials, and connection to other members in the community across the US.
$5: PDF copy of plans
$10: Name on the robot + PDF copy of the plans
$30: 8 ½” x 11” glossy blueprints + PDF copy of the plans
$50: 8 ½” x 11” glossy blueprints + Full-color print plans + PDF copy of the plans