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Algae Biomass Organization Announces 2020 Algae Industry Awards

Outstanding leaders, companies and innovations recognized by ABO

Preston, MN (September 23, 2020) — The Algae Biomass Organization’s (ABO) is pleased to recognize the winners of the 2020 Algae Industry Awards.  During ABO’s Annual Algae Biomass Summit, incoming Executive Director, Dr. Rebecca White, announced outstanding leaders, companies and innovations that are at the forefront of efforts to develop new technologies and commercial markets for renewable and sustainable products derived from algae

The Algae Industry Awards recognize excellence in the following areas and the 2020 winners include:

Breakthrough ProductFor groundbreaking innovation using algae as part of novel solutions for global problems

Soleic™ foam flip flops from Algenesis

An estimated three billion flip flops end up in waterways or the ocean every single year, choking sea life and breaking into tiny particles that end up in the food chain1. Algenesis announced in March that they have signed an agreement with REEF, one of the world’s leading active sandal brands to commercialize Algensis’ Soleic™ foam flip flops. SoleicTM foam is unique in the industry because of its high biocontent, and its proven biodegradability (no microplastics).

Product of the Year AwardIn recognition of a high impact algae product that made significant contributions to the visibility of the algae industry within the last year

WNDR Vital 100 Skis from Checkerspot, WNDRAlpine

Made from Algal Cast, Checkerspot’s new biomanufactured performance material, and Algal Hard Foam, the WNDR Vital 100 Backcountry Ski is designed to optimize backcountry ski performance.  This precision backcountry ski has no petroleum based ABS plastic, and the manufacturing process has significantly reduced waste. Winner of Freeskier Magazine’s Editors Pick, the Vital 100 Ski brings algae to an entirely new consumer group, continuing algae’s expansion in the biomaterials space.

Innovation Collaboration of the Year AwardIn recognition of a partner collaboration that raises the visibility and impact of algae products globally 

Corbion and BioMar

The partnership between Corbion, a leader in sustainable ingredient production, and BioMar, a leading innovator in sustainable aquaculture feeds, served as the tipping point for industry adoption of algae omega-3s. Corbion was the first to produce a long chain omega-3 ingredient at scale – AlgaPrime™ DHA – and BioMar was the first aquafeed producer to incorporate microalgae at scale. Since launching in 2016, the partnership has changed the aquaculture landscape – as of June 2020, BioMar had sold over 600,000 tons of feed containing AlgaPrime™ DHA into Norway alone.  Salmon fed AlgaPrime DHA has been on store shelves from Walmart to Tesco to Whole Foods.


Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Iowa State University and Gross-Wen Technologies

This cutting edge wastewater treatment collaboration has successfully scaled from the lab to  pilot and is now set for deployment at three municipalities in 2021. The project was recently awarded the Water Environment Federation’s Ralph Fuhrman Medal for Outstanding Water Quality Academic-Practice Collaboration.

Mid-Career Excellence AwardFor excellence in scholarly achievements and a record of productive, independent, and impactful peer-reviewed research and creative scholarship activities

Christy Sterner, Technology Manager for the Advanced Algal Systems Program

Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Officer (BETO),

While she has served in many different capacities and programs within BETO over the years, Ms. Sterner has been with the Advanced Algal Systems Program since 2009. She has many projects in her portfolio ranging from core research at DOE’s national laboratories to larger-scale pilot and demo projects.

Ms. Sterner is one of the leading champions of algae worldwide. She has provided innovative support to advance the industry’s essential technologies, workforce, and leading companies. She is passionate, insightful, and visionary in her understanding of how algae will positively benefit our global population and our planet in our lifetime. Ms. Sterner’s collaborative work in the Interagency Algae Working Group along with her active participation at the ABO Summit exemplifies her passion for the success of this industry. She has tirelessly worked as part of the leadership in BETO’s Advanced Algal Systems Program since 2009 where she manages a large portfolio of algae R&D projects. She is knowledgeable of the cutting-edge research in the field and the new opportunities ahead for the algae industry; and she is always using this knowledge to look for new ways to elevate the algae industry, while be very conscientious regarding the best use of DOE resources to advance AAS goals. Ms. Sterner exemplifies the dedication, grit, and optimism that has brought the algae industry so farm in the last decade.

Unsung Hero AwardFor unheralded dedication and career contributions to the growth of the algae industry

Darin Debina, Spirulina Pond Field Technician, Cyanotech Corporation, Cyanotech Corporation, 24 years of service


Warren Pai, Harvest Processor Technician, Cyanotech Corporation, Cyanotech Corporation, 25 years of service

Together Mr. Pai and Mr. Debina have grown and harvested tons of Spirulina and Haematococcus for Astaxanthin at Cyanotech Corporation in the open ponds on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. 

Mr. Debina daily feeds the algae growing in 500,000-liter outdoor race-away ponds, caring and monitoring their growth and health.  It is rumored he often points his telescope (located on his lanai,) at the ponds to check in on the algae “just to make sure they are doing ok when he is not on site.”  His career-long dedication to the industry and Cyanotech is valued and respected.

Mr. Pai and his family have ties to this area, and in a way, he continues to carry on a long family tradition of aquaculture. Because harvesting algae is a 24/7 operation, over the years, Warren has experience on every shift and is often called on by coworkers for his knowledge and expertise. He is a key part of the Cyanotech enterprise.

With almost 50 years of combined service at Cyanotech, and with that, almost 50 years of combined knowledge of cultivating and harvesting microalgae, Warren Pai and Darin Debina, are the giants on which the success of the algae industry has been built  They are the frontline workers who spend many hours around the clock and working in the grueling Hawaiian sun, feeding and harvesting the algae.  Their careers have literally contributed to the growth of the microalgae industry.  They helped create an aquaculture farm that has grown from a few acres to a now massive 90-acre production facility.

Lifetime Achievement AwardFor contributions to the algae industry over the whole of a career in academia and/or industry, including commercial success, significant research contributions, policy activities, outreach, workforce development/educational activities, and/or mentoring activities.

Dr. Gerald R. Cysewski, Founder and CEO, Cyanotech Corporation

Dr. Cysewski’s microalgae story began in his garage, where he grew Spirulina as an experiment. He received his doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.  At the time, Spirulina was growing in popularity and was primarily being imported to the US health food market.  He recognized the opportunity to produce a higher quality and cleaner product.  Dr. Cysewski also had the foresight to realize that this particular microalgae had great potential grow in carefully controlled, consistent environments.  So, in 1983 he founded Cyanotech, and through much hard work and dedication, his dream of producing microalgae for health and human nutrition in a sustainable, reliable and environmentally sensitive operation came to life.  Cyanotech now grows two algae, Spirulina and Haematococcus for Astaxanthin on 90 acres on the Kona Coast, is a publicly held company generating more than $30 million in annual revenue and employs approximately 100 people.

Through Cyanotech,  Dr. Cysewski has not only created many non-tourism jobs on the Island, he has advanced research on the benefits of algae for human consumption, achieved Generally Recognized as Safe status for Spirulina and New Dietary Ingredient status for Astaxanthin, taking two algae from benchtop to full scale production to bulk ingredient supply and into a brand.  Beyond these significant accomplishments, Dr. Cysewski is known as a scientist who leads with his heart.  He is an extremely compassionate individual who truly cares for all of the Cyanotech Ohana (family).  He represents Cyanotech’s values of; Integrity, Well Being, and Ohana.  Dr. Cysewski will leave a legacy as a world leader in microalgae and the mission of fulfilling the promise of Whole Health through Hawaiian microalgae.

Champion of Algae AwardFor exceptional contributions to growing the algae industry through professional service

Senator Tom Udall

For over 10 years, Senator Tom Udall has given the industry exceptional contributions through his service in the Senate that have directly or indirectly supported the growth of the algae industry.

Senator Udall has long been a supporter of the algae industry, and particularly advanced biofuels. In 2009, he supported the planned algae biomass production facility in Columbus, New Mexico, which was a first of its kind facility in many ways, including the duel funding from a Department of Energy (DOE) grant and a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) load guarantee. In 2011, he introduced the Renewable Fuel Parity Act of 2011, a bipartisan initiative to provide legislative parity for algae-based biofuels in the Renewable Fuel Standard to incentivize further use of algae biofuels. In 2018, Senator Udall filed an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill outlining algae ag research program priorities that demonstrated key bipartisan, bicameral support for the proposal (although this amendment was not included in the final bill).  

Senator Udall has also championed the DOE’s algae biofuel research program, which has been funded at a $30 million or higher level for the past decade. The DOE algae biofuels programs laid the groundwork for many other successful products for algae, and that work continues to drive scale up and costs down. His continued support for this DOE funding also enables the programs in work force development through the Algae Foundation, and in particular in his home state at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). This workforce development program is a core part of SFCC’s vibrant training program in preparing our students for careers of the future. The SFCC Algae Cultivation program has trained 2 cohorts of algae farmers; all the graduates have either matriculated at a 4-year university or found full-time employment with benefits.

Because of Senator Udall’s support, the algae industry has thrived and grown to what it is today. We thank Senator Udall for his service – we would not be where we are today without his service and support.

Leadership Through Service AwardFor exceptional contributions to the growth of the algae industry through volunteerism and service

Chris Cassidy, USDA

Mr. Cassidy is the National Business Renewable Energy Advisor for USDA National Office in Washington D.C. He formerly served as the Regional Renewable Energy Coordinator for Western and Pacific Region, the Director of Business and Cooperative Programs for USDA Rural Development, and was the USDA Renewable Energy Coordinator for Washington State. He served on the task forces that designed, implemented, and provided technical reviews for the Renewable Energy Sections of the 2002, 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills. Mr. Cassidy has been actively engaged in business, agriculture, technology, and renewable energy development activities for three decades, has served in technical management capacities for multiple global organizations, such the United Nations, and the World Bank on 5 continents.

His dedication to rural and community development has made him an enthusiastic and committed supporter of algae. Mr. Cassidy has said that USDA’s mantra of “Do right and feed everybody” makes algae a clear fit to all of the agency’s priorities in the bioeconomy feed chain.  For well over a decade, Mr. Cassidy has been consistently, humbly and steadfastly working toward an algae future we all envision: one where algae creates job, provides sustainable, regenerative solutions to our climate issues, feeds our population and our livestock, and does it in a way that positively impacts rural communities and our national economy. Much of this effort can be seen in the culmination of the 2018 Farm Bill, where algae was included as a crop for the first time.

The tangible impact of Mr. Cassidy’s quiet but longstanding and very effective support in his role at USDA is that we are making this envisioned future a reality.

Outstanding Contributions to the Industry 

Matt Carr, Green Capitol, LLC

Dr. Carr’s five-year tenure as Executive Director of ABO was punctuated with major legislative wins in the 2018 Farm Bill and passage of 45Q amendments to the tax code, acknowledging and institutionalizing algae’s future role in feeding the planet and mitigating climate change. Matt’s tenure on Capitol Hill as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow and other legislative experience prepared him to lead ABO in these preeminent achievements. This was just part of the challenging task of transitioning ABO and the industry from our early emphasis in fuels to today’s much broader scope in sustainability, ecosystem services, materials, and much more. The fruits of these efforts are now at hand and will continue to shape the algae industry for years to come. In his time at ABO Matt was the ultimate ambassador for “all things algae”.   


Tim Peckinpaugh and Laurie Purpuro, K&L Gates

From the inception of ABO Tim Peckinpaugh and Laurie Purpuro, of the law firm K&L Gates, have provided policy, legislative, and appropriation support to ABO. Tim is a Partner in the firm and Laurie is a Government Affairs Advisor, they are both veterans of Capitol Hill with extensive knowledge and relationships across energy, sustainability, natural resource, science, technology, carbon emissions reduction and utilization and agriculture innovation policy across congress and administrative agencies important to ABO’s policy goals and objectives. Laurie has also served as senior policy advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). They have worked with many ABO members and our congressional supporters to champion important legislation such as the 2018 Farm Bill, and much more.  Their enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to our community has been instrumental to the expanding algae industry we see today. 

About the Algae Biomass Organization

The Algae Biomass Organization is the non-profit trade association and unified voice of the algae industry. Working on behalf of all sectors, the ABO advocates for algae-advancing policy and funding, serves as a hub for innovation and networking, and drives demand for “made with algae” products and services.

The annual Algae Biomass Summit, ABO’s signature event, is the largest global gathering of algae producers, researchers, investors, suppliers, policy makers, and other stakeholders.

Founded in 2008, the ABO is led by a Board of Directors representative of the industry’s value chain. Together, with the broader membership, they strive to deliver on the shared mission to promote and accelerate the power of algae to create a step-change in the health and well-being of humanity and the environment. More information is at:

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