Growing Superfoods in LA: An Interview with Dale Solomon
May 09, 2021
Dale Solomon, Founder of Oasia Farms
Nestled in the rural hillside of Los Angeles, California is Oasia Farms. Dale Solomon, Oasia’s founder, is cultivating Spirulina as a “superfood” to improve people’s lives and the environment. Spirulina is quickly becoming a popular superfood, as grocery stores and eateries make it increasingly available to consumers. In addition, Spirulina is a much better protein for the environment than traditional animal protein, which is responsible for over 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
At Oasia Farms, Dale and his crew grow Spirulina in large ponds, pump the Spirulina through harvest screens, and pack the strained Spirulina into vacuum bags for consumption. There are several Spirulina recipes on Oasia’s website. All are yummy, but Dale’s favorite way to eat Spirulina is in smoothie form. Quality is key at Oasia Farms, as you can see from their highly controlled greenhouse below!
As an Industrial Engineering major at USC, Dale was not always aware of his passion for algae. As part of various climate justice organizations, he led protests against oil wells and advocated for more solar panels, but using algae to help the environment did not cross his mind until he saw a presentation on using algae as biofuel. After college, Dale worked in the defense sector, but quickly realized it was not where he wanted to be. According to his story on Oasia Farms’ website, “Making fighter jets for a living didn't represent the positivity that [he] wanted to bring to the world, so [he] made a change.”
Sunset from Oasia Farms
Dale always wanted to be a business owner. With his expertise in industrial engineering and passion for the environment, he opened Oasia Farms in 2017. He found the biofuel route to be pricey, so he started down another sustainable path: alternative protein. Spirulina is very high in protein- and a much more sustainable option than animal proteins.
There is “no such thing” as a typical day in the life for Spirulina farmer/business owner Dale Solomon. “I wish that was a joke,” laughs Dale, “but that’s kind of the fun of it.” There’s the algae side of things, where Dale is growing, harvesting, and packing Spirulina. Then, there’s the “running the business” side, where Dale is networking, marketing, training new hires, creating proposals, and distributing the Spirulina. Finally, there are all the odds and ends that come with running a business, such as fixing things and designing new processes. Overall, Dale is truly a jack of all trades.
Exterior of the Oasia Farms Greenhouse
This interview is not the first time Algae Research Supply has talked with Dale. Oasia Farms is a long-time customer and frequently orders product and equipment to support his Spirulina ventures. In fact, an Oxygen Sensor was delivered as this interview was taking place! According to Dale, he “definitely gets a lot of advice,” from our chief scientist Matt Huber. A few years ago, when Oasia first opened, Dale had to keep all the Spirulina inside to prevent it from freezing during their winter closure. Tragedy struck when a dog knocked over a five-gallon spirulina tank, and Algae Research Supply was able to provide Spirulina culture to keep Dale on track. Now, the greenhouse is functional year-round (less risk of doggy disasters!) but ARS still supplies some fresh Spirulina if needed.
Spirulina Under the Microscope
Finally, for the newbies out there thinking about going into algae culturing as business. “There’s room, but it has to be because you believe in it,” says Dale. The belief in algae is what powers Dale through the tougher times of running an algae culturing business. Dale truly believes in algae. Though the novelty of algae has worn off a bit for him, he loves seeing people “light up” when they first see it. “I can enjoy it through them,” he says, “it reminds me that ‘hey, this is pretty cool!’”