Our Company

Our mission is to accelerate the development of the microalgae industry in every potential market via proven, reliable, and cost-effective manufacturing technologies.

Over 46 years of combined experience in research and manipulation of algae at the cellular level through to million liter plus production scale, as well as real world business experience make Harmon Consulting, Inc. your go-to solution for microalgae problem solving at all stages of company development.

Learn more about our areas of expertise and services we offer. 


Our Team

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Valerie Harmon | CEO

Harmon has over 28 years of experience in microalgae and shellfish cultivation.  She has cultivated species such as:  Haemotococcus, Arthrospira (Spirulina), Nannochloropsis, Chaetoceros, Isochrysis and Tetraselmis at the commercial scale.  Most recently, she is CEO with Harmon Consulting, a business in support of Microalgae Biotechnology Industry Development.  Prior to this she served as Sr. Director of Research and Development for Cellana LLC, where she served as Principal Investigator for three multi-million-dollar grant projects, as well as supervised all scientific work including development of quality control standards and Good Manufacturing Practice production methods.  She served as Director of Cultivation, Environmental and Safety Systems for Aurora Algae Pty Ltd in Karratha Western Australia.  During this time, she worked as part of a team to develop optimal production methodologies for large scale production ponds, contributing to a 50% increase in productivities as well as improved reliability.  

Prior to Aurora Algae, she worked in multiple roles of increasing responsibility for Cyanotech Corporation, a world leader in microalgae products.  While working for Cyanotech, Harmon served as Cultivation Specialist, Technical Sales/Animal Feed Sales Manager, Director of Business Development, and Director of Cultivation over a nine-year period.  During her tenure with Cyanotech improvements to production system methodologies led to productivity increases of 34%, coupled with a product quality increase that allowed for better market positioning.  Harmon also brings significant experience in regulatory affairs for microalgae products across multiple markets, as well as a history of strong success in building solid relations with customers.  She was responsible for multiple large exclusive contracts worth up to $10 million in revenues from microalgae products.  Before working exclusively in microalgae, Harmon worked in the Shellfish Aquaculture Industry for both private and public institutions with strong expertise in hatchery management.  Harmon holds a Masters in Agriculture, with an emphasis on Aquaculture, Fisheries Economics and Business Strategy from Oregon State University and a B.S. in Biology from Davidson College.

Valerie's vision for the industry is a future of social sustainability based on the nutritional, pharmaceutical and environmental remediation applications for microalgae that can change the way in which we interact with our environment.


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Dr. Philip Lee | Principal Consultant

Dr. Lee is a scientist who has worked in both academic and industrial research since 2000.  He received a B.Sc. from the University of Birmingham, UK and a Ph.D. from the John Innes Centre, UK.  During his Ph.D. he studied the twin arginine protein transport pathway (Tat) found in bacteria and chloroplasts. He continued this work during a postdoctoral position with George Georgiou at the University of Texas at Austin, where his research became more applied using such techniques as phage display and fluorescence-activated cell sorting.  

During his postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Mayfield, he switched his focus to algae. While in the Mayfield lab, Dr. Lee developed methods for manipulation of both the nuclear and chloroplast genomes for protein expression, and also showed the utility of the algal chloroplast for expression of therapeutic proteins. This work resulted in both peer reviewed publications and licensed patents. The nuclear expression vectors he developed remain widely used and have resulted in some of the most robust gene/protein expression ever reported for algae.

Dr. Lee continued this line of work at Sapphire Energy from 2008, further developing nuclear expression platforms for use in multiple genera of algae.  The resulting vectors were applied to work generating strains with improved characteristics in the areas of fuel/product profile, crop protection, and harvestability.  In 2012, Dr. Lee moved to New Mexico to lead the Sapphire Energy crop protection team and to help coordinate the translation of laboratory research to field trials and on to commercial scale demonstration.  During this time, he developed an integrated pest management strategy, identified and studied novel pests, and pioneered mitigation strategies.  The resulting processes were deployed at scale, and these were an essential component in the successful production of over 500 tonnes of biomass, without culture loss, for a strain that had not been previously grown at scale.  Similar strategies were developed for multiple genera of algae in media from brackish to saltwater. Dr. Lee led, or was a member of, multiple project teams that successfully demonstrated lab-to-field translation of novel crop protection techniques and cultivation methods. Throughout this work Dr. Lee and his team became adept at problem solving and applying or adapting techniques to novel situations and identified the need to look at the system as a whole, rather than focusing on individual steps, in order to succeed. In 2015, he moved to Texas and became an independent consultant; he teamed up with Harmon Consulting in 2016.

Dr. Lee’s experience across a broad range of scales in the algae industry, from single cells to million plus liter raceways gives him a unique perspective on the strain and product development pipeline required to take an idea from the laboratory to successful large scale cultivation.


Marcela Saracco Alvarez | Senior Director of Cultivation

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Marcela is a talented Microalgae Biologist with extensive experience in producing microalgae at every scale. In the last 14 years, she has been the lead biologist responsible for initiation of algae production for multiple start-up microalgae companies in diverse locations around the world. She successfully supported reliable production of microalgae in 4,000 m2 open ponds at the Aurora Algae facility by leading her team to provide quality inoculum and pro-actively managing a crop protection program. She was an integral part of developing Aurora Algae’s Safety, Employee Training and GMP Program documentation and procedures. Her diverse skill set and experience make her a valuable part of our team.

Currently Marcela is working as Senior Director of Cultivation with Harmon Consulting, Inc. Her current focus is on bioprospecting the magnificent microalgae diversity around Hawai'i Island, and she is compiling a unique HCI algal strain collection in the process. Additionally, Marcela supports optimization research and training for clients throughout the globe.

Previously Marcela was employed at Cellana LLC serving as Cultivation Manager.  Responsibilities involved all aspects of cultivation from stock collection to large scale ponds including use of culture equipment, quantification and identification of contaminants, inoculum quality and data generation. In addition to cultivation, she supported the development of a Good Manufacturing Practices program for the production of microalgae.

Prior to Cellana, Marcela worked for Aurora Algae Inc. During these six years, she set up five different analytical and cultivation laboratories, high quality sea water systems and field research facilities in diverse locations as part of a due diligence program to identify the right location for the production facility: two facilities in Mexico, two facilities in Australia and one facility in the United States. As Cultivation Laboratory Manager and Senior Biologist, she was in charge of the strain library, microalgae bioprospecting and isolation, bacteriology, pond maintenance, inoculum production, and the crop protection program.  During these years, Marcela developed significant experience with flow cytometry for the quantification of microalgae, and contaminant monitoring while implementing a pro-active crop protection program. 

Marcela has a Masters in Science with an Aquaculture emphasis from Ensenada Scientific Research and Higher Education Centre. Her focus was on extracting antibiotics from microalgae, isolating bacteria and working with harmful bacteria for fish and oysters. At the University of Guadalajara, she earned a Bachelor of Science while examining different microalgae diets for clam and oyster larvae. She has also worked with a diversity of aquaculture species such as shrimp, lobsters, oysters and clams in addition to microalgae.