Dr. Sasha Tozzi has recently transitioned from studying microscopic marine plants to growing them, in an effort to transform farming to meet the needs of humanity’s soaring population.
Tozzi, a 2010 graduate of the Ph.D. program at VIMS, was recently named Vice President of Strain Validation and Field Operations at Aurora Algae, Inc., creators of the world’s first platform for growing marine algae, or phytoplankton, on a commercial scale.
Tozzi, who studied phytoplankton photosynthesis in the Ross Sea in Antarctica for his dissertation research at VIMS, is now collaborating with colleagues at Aurora Algae to grow vast numbers of these single-cell plants in a farm setting for use as nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals, protein, and renewable fuels.
Tozzi says the background experience he gained from years of studying phytoplankton—also known as microalgae—prepared him to take charge and implement the company’s strain validation program and field operations. “At Aurora, I’m sustainably and economically growing phytoplankton using little more than sunlight, seawater, and carbon dioxide,” he says.