In case of phototrophic cultures, photobioreactor costs contribute significantly to the total operating costs. Therefore one of the most important parameters to be determined is the maximum biomass production rate, if biomass or a biomass associated product is the desired product. This is traditionally determined in time consuming series of chemostat cultivations. The goal of this work is to assess the experimental time that can be saved by applying the deceleration stat (D-stat) technique to assess the maximum biomass production rate of a phototrophic cultivation system, instead of a series of chemostat cultures. A mathematical model developed by Geider and co-workers was adapted in order to describe the rate of photosynthesis as a function of the local light intensity. This is essential for the accurate description of biomass productivity in phototrophic cultures. The presented simulations demonstrate that D-stat experiments executed in the absence of pseudo steady-state (i.e., the arbitrary situation that the observed specific growth rate deviates <5% from the dilution rate) can still be used to accurately determine the maximum biomass productivity of the system. Moreover, this approach saves up to 94% of the time required to perform a series of chemostat experiments that has the same accuracy. In case more information on the properties of the system is required, the reduction in experimental time is reduced but still significant. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 792–802. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.