ABO Algae Biomass Summit in Minneapolis, MN: A Chilly Locale for a Hot Industry Topic

Just like everyone else, I have always dreamed about visiting Minneapolis, Minnesota during the beginning of winter to learn all about algae. I and about 799 other lucky individuals had the opportunity to realize that dream at the ABO Algae Biomass Summit on October 24 through October 27.

Let me first say that Minneapolis is a great town. The Vikings were playing the Packers at home when we arrived on Sunday. Our hotel had a lovely gym, which was perfect because our colleague, Jim Duffy, was kind enough to introduce me to the most divine steak I’ve ever tasted at the Capital Grille. But it’s so cold. It is so cold.

Fortunately, the atmosphere in the Hyatt Regency was a lot warmer. Our CEO, Craig Stanley, and our manager of Business Development in Puerto Rico, George Economou, were among the participants at the first-ever Algae Biomass Summit Finance Symposium. Todd Taylor of Fredrikson & Byron, and Bill Lese of Braemar Energy were the co-chairs for the finance symposium in which the CBO team presented to investment-related professionals in the algae industry.

At other times, our group of three was busy at our booth in the exhibition and poster hall, and we attended the plenary sessions as well as the commercial, biology and engineering tracks. We also enjoyed hearing conference speaker, U.S. Senator Al Franken, trying to pronounce the word “algal”.

Some of the most notable presentations included Biomat’s plan to produce an algae system that can be contained within the metal shipping containers, and Jaap van Hal’s presentation, “Seaweed Biorefinery—The Other Algal Biomass” along with his Sea-Combine harvesting concept.

We were fortunate to see Brian Goodall for the second time in a week; he represents SRS, an algae oil extraction company. What really sets SRS apart from other companies is that they claim to know how to speak the language of both the algal farmers and the end-product users to make those relationships lucrative. I also had the chance to meet Emily Chad of Frederikson & Byron. While we both kept tabs on our booths, she schooled me on the goings on in Minneapolis.

The lunches were … interesting … but gratis with our conference fees so we ate with the rest of the 797 attendees. We met wonderful folks like Iain with Amec; they were giving out lovely bags at their booth and threw a smashing bash under the guise of networking at The Local. Plus, I always enjoying seeing Algae2Omega’s Geronimos and Jason, and I learned more than I ever thought I could know about Greek cooking and fireworks.

I was lucky enough to escape the conference’s culinary misadventures and have lunch on Wednesday with Algenol Biofuels and its funny and entertaining CEO, Paul Woods. We all listened intently as the president of Sapphire Energy, C.J. Warner, spoke for nearly an hour. C.J. brought great insights and related a very large amount of highly technical information to a huge group in a way that was clear and thought provoking. She was incredibly likeable and inspiring.

All in all, it was a great, well-organized conference. It had every element a conference needs to deliver: interesting people, great speakers, informative classes, mixers with good food and drink, and the opportunity to meet professionals with whom we hope to work. Next year the conference is in Denver, and my goal is to talk to attendees about CBO’s algae projects and how many more we plan to build!

About ABO

The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the development of viable commercial markets for renewable and sustainable commodities derived from algae. Its membership is comprised of people, companies and organizations across the value chain. More information about ABO, including its leadership, membership, costs, benefits and members and their affiliations, is available at the website:www.algaebiomass.org.

Cori Cheairs, CBO Financial Director of Development

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