An Introduction – Zach

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Today I am posting my first blog for my Independent Seminar this year. It’s kind of weird writing something as if I am speaking to people, especially when I know it’s not for a particular speech, but here it goes.

I suppose I’ll start with a brief overview of my project. This year, I will be pursuing the creation of a business that uses phytoplankton to feed people in malnourished countries at a very low cost while also maximizing nutrition potential. Most people think that world hunger is quite a task problem to solve (because it is) and probably not something a 17 year old will be able to pull off (especially when global and scientific leaders can’t), but to them I say if I never try then I can never succeed. So, I might as well try because it seems like many people are afraid of the inevitable failures. A key idea I need to maintain throughout this year is remembering that failures are expected and problems will arise, but I cannot let them stop me from going forward. As Thomas Edison knows, there is no such thing as failure or an undesirable result, just results; the results may not be in the direction I was hoping or planning to go, but they are not necessarily bad. It took Thomas Edison over 2,000 attempts, but eventually he figured it out. Given the nature of the problem I am looking to study, malnutrition in developing countries, I’m sure that I will encounter many problems. I just need to make sure that I am ready to tackle everything that comes my way.

In addition to Independent Seminar, I am also enrolled in a class called Applied Scientific Research. This class operates very similarly to my Independent Seminar, and I have chosen to structure them together. Basically, one is for the business aspects and designing a business model while the other is for studying the science behind phytoplankton. The behind-the-scenes science is especially important for a plethora of reasons, including to study the nutritional values of phytoplankton and the growth factors, however the most important reason I am conducting research on phytoplankton is that it is toxic. While algae supplements are commonplace in small doses, algae actually contains endotoxins, or lipopolysaccharides in the cell wall. To put the potency of endotoxins into perspective, bacteria such as meningitis and E. Coli are toxic largely because they have endotoxins in the cell wall. While phytoplankton has a much lower concentration of endotoxins, it still creates quite a problem, hence the research and experimentation I will be conducting this year in an attempt to reverse phytoplankton evolution and remove endotoxins or LPS (lipopolysaccharide) from the cells.

All in all, I have quite a year planned out for myself, and I am extremely excited to begin. I have spent the last five or so years working with aquatic life, and the last two years specifically studying horseshoe crabs and phytoplankton. Before I end, I will leave you all with a link to my website,, and a quote from Nelson Mandela in the image below. I will also leave you with a little teaser about what I did with my summer as an intern at B Lab; more information is to follow in a later post about my internship there, but here is their website:

Until next week,


2 thoughts on “An Introduction – Zach

  1. margaretjhaviland


    Will the phytoplankton be an additive to other foods to make them more nutritious? Will you expect people to add water and turned the dried phytoplankton into a nutritious broth? Will people who are only chronically hungry rather than desperately startving choose to eat your product? How will you do end user/client research?

    1. zachsta18 Post author

      I have actually looked into many different applications and business models for phytoplankton. I have looked at drying and selling it on a larger scale as a supplement, or adding it to common foods such as oatmeal or similar prepared foods, and even using it as a nutritional additive in public school meals where that has notoriously been a problem. The model I have isolated as my main interest, however, is to go into a developing country and build a farm for a small, malnourished village of a few thousand people. The first farm will act as a prototype, but I then hope to expand and put farms in place to grow phytoplankton locally. From there, end user feedback and research will be conducted directly through the micro-managed facilities. There are multiple motivational factors for this structure, but due to the amount of depth describing those would require I think I’ll save it for a future blog post. 🙂


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