They have now developed their own algae in-house, saying the conditions inside the brewery were favourable to cultivation.
“The road to here has been quite mind-expanding, not just for us but for many members of our team,” Mr Adamson said.
“All of our brewing team and quality control team have a slightly scientific mind, so they’ve been very excited with what we’re doing.
“We’re nerdier than we thought we were.”
He said that during the company’s eight to ten brewery tours a week, at least one person asks ‘what the hell is that?’ when they see the glowing green cylinders – which do not come into contact with any beer – in the corner of the room.
The end goal, he said, was to help create something that would not just have an impact for them, but could be adapted in businesses around the country and the world.
“It could be something that people put on the outside of buildings to treat wastewater – the actual applications of this are quite fascinating.”
Algae produce half of the world’s oxygen via photosynthesis, despite only accounting for 1/60th of the biomass of plants. There are two main types of algae – macro-algae, which are kelps and seaweeds; and micro-algae, which are tiny, microscopic plants that can grow in both fresh and saltwater.
Young Henrys’ glowing “bioreactors” contain micro-algae. Each mL contains about 5 million cells – or individual plants. The entire 400L bioreactor will contain 2400 trillion cells of algae and produce about as much oxygen as one hectare of Australian forest.
Dr Janice McCauley, a research fellow at UTS, said the hub “strongly advocates” that society can use algae more effectively than other, more traditional crops.
“Algae uses carbon dioxide from the air to create carbohydrates and oxygen, just like plants do, but at the moment, lots of things are really at their limits,” she said.
“We’re currently utilising most of our arable land at the moment, but algae be grown almost anywhere.”
Micro-algae are already used in the mussel and oyster industry, but one of the challenges is the cost of growing them.
“One of the biggest challenges is the de-watering process,” Dr McCauley said.
“They’re microscopic organisms, and this comes at a cost, and an engineering challenge we need to face.”
Young Henrys Co-founder Oscar McMahon said when they first told staff they were going to put algae in the mix “they looked at us a bit funny”.
He said that customers had been firmly in favour of the move.
“Most people that drink Young Henrys beer know a little bit about us and our company. They’re probably that open-minded, forward-thinking person,” he said.
Mr McMahon said other manufacturers were starting to take notice too.
“From a Young Henrys point of view, we’d like to get to the point where we can put a C0₂ catchment system internally and basically it would be a closed-loop within the brewery.”
“We’ve still got a fair way to go but once we’ve got in bolted down and have a real-world application, we definitely want other breweries to run with it,” he said.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.