Saturday, September 1, 2007

Spirulina: Case Study in Susustianability

Spirulina: Case Study in Susustianability

Why spirulina in Auroville?

Spirulina appears to be the ultimate source of nutrition available to mankind today. Investigation has found spi to be the most powerful and well-balanced source of nutrition available on the planet. Under the microscope, this micro-organism has the form of a spiral, which explains its name. Its scientific name is Arthrospira. NASA found it to be an excellent, compact space food for astronauts, and have said: "1kg of spi is equivalent to 1,000kgs of assorted vegetables".

To produce 1 kg of spi we need very little water (the only significant loss is through evaporation) and we can even use brackish or alkaline water, unsuitable for agriculture. Growing spi also requires very little surface area of land, with the further advantage that the land can be marginal, unusable and non-fertile. What spi does need, however, is sun and heat! Spi protein uses 1/3 the water of soybeans and only 1/50th the water needed for beef protein. Spi protein needs 20 times less land than soybeans and 200 times less than is required for beef production. Spi can help in the struggle with global warming as it fixes carbon and produces oxygen.

At the farm we don't use TNEB electricity for the production; we use only solar pumps for the water supply. With last year's production we were able to supply 1,370 people with their daily basic intake of 1 gram of spi. Even if Auroville is going to grow hugely in number of habitants , there will be no problem at all in producing enough spi within the community to supply this "nutrient rich super food" on a daily basis for all, plus enough to meet the needs of the bio-region.

When looking at current community consumption patterns, it appears that many Aurovilians are becoming more aware of their food intake, and hence of the value of spi.

Auroville and spirulina

Already in the 1970s, Aurovilians Bob and Deborah Lawlor started a small scale algae farm in Auroville's Success community with a mixture of green algae, mostly chlorella and scenedesmus. In their attempts at growing spi, they found that after a few weeks indigenous varieties of the chlorella species outgrew and replaced the original strain of spi. Although their project was very basic and operated with simple means, it was one of the first experimental spi farms worldwide, and even now is considered to have been of great value. So much so, that it is mentioned in the books written by Ripley D. Fox (the spi guru for the last three decades).

SPI cultivation: Keeping Out Weed Algae

Hundreds of aquatic organisms can bloom in nutrient rich water in warm sunshine, just as in a natural lake or swimming pool. Unlike a garden, weeding out unwanted algae is a difficult task since this algae is microscopic. Preventing weed algae from taking over is the key to growing a pure culture.

Conventional farmers kill weeds and pests in their fields with pesticides and herbicides, leaving residues in the environment, on farm workers, and in your food. Scientists keep out weed algae without toxic chemicals using a specially designed pond system and balancing the pond ecology. Producing spirulina under these controlled conditions does not allow growth of contaminant or weed algae as in lakes and waterways.

It can be grown with brackish water and non-fertile land that cannot be used by other crops. It can produce 20 times more protein per acre than soybeans.

ENVIRONMENTAL ADVANTAGES


Conventional Foods Have Hidden Environmental Costs

We are aware how agriculture destroys natural resources. However, many production costs are externalized, meaning we pay in other ways. Hidden costs include depletion of fresh water, fertile topsoil and forests, pollution from pesticides, herbicides and toxins. People pay long term medical costs from unhealthy foods with chemical additives. We leave payment to future generations.

All this means food production is far more costly than the price you pay at the checkout counter. Adding up all these external costs, some have calculated the true price of a fast food burger to be $100, not $2.49!


Conserving Fertile Land and Soil

Over 60% protein, higher than any other food, spirulina's rapid growth means it yields 20 times more protein per acre than soybeans, 40 times more than corn, and over 200 times more than beef. Spirulina does not require fertile land.

One kilo of corn protein causes 22 kilos of topsoil loss. One kilo of beef protein causes 145 kilos of topsoil loss. Growing spirulina causes no soil erosion.



More Efficient Water Use

Spirulina uses less water per kilo of protein than other foods. Water is recycled back to the ponds after harvesting. The ponds are sealed with food grade plastic liners, so very little water seeps through the ground compared to land crops. The only significant water loss is through evaporation.

Spirulina protein uses 25% the water as soy, 17% as corn and only 2% the water required for beef protein. Spirulina prefers brackish to valuable fresh water. At Earthrise Farms, only 6 gallons of water are needed for a 10 gram serving of spirulina, less than 15 gallons for a serving of bread, 65 for milk, 136 for eggs, 408 for chicken, and 1,303 gallons for a burger.


More Efficient Energy Use

Spirulina requires less energy input per kilo than soy, corn or beef, including solar and generated energy. Its energy efficiency (food energy output per kg / energy input per kg) is 5 times higher than soy, 2 times higher than corn, and over 100 times higher than grain fed beef. As cheap energy resources are depleted, costs of energy dependent foods will rise with energy prices.



Big Oxygen Producer
Forests help absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. Trees are the best land plants for fixing carbon, from 1 to 4 tons per hectare per year. Spirulina is even more efficient. In the California desert, spirulina fixes 6.3 tons of carbon per hectare per year. It produces 16.8 tons of oxygen.


Regreening Our Planet
Microalgae, like spirulina, deliver food and biochemicals more efficiently, without destroying valuable resources. As algae production expands using non-fertile land and brackish water, we can stop cutting forests to grow new food. Cropland can return to wilderness. When more people eat lower on the food chain, we can halt pressures to destroy wilderness, and help regreen our planet.

Ripley & Fox


Dr. Ripley and Denise Fox developed the Integrated Health and Energy System for developing world villages. Over the past 20 years, the Foxes built experimental spirulina projects in villages in India, Peru and Togo. Dr. Fox wrote:

"Every nation is supported on the shoulders of its villages. We believe by providing technical assistance to improve sanitation and agricultural output, by recycling the wastes already present, and by saving the trees, we can increase the vitality of these villages."
Their system design won the 1987 European Award for Appropriate Environmental Technology, sponsored by the EEC and the UN Environmental Program.

Health and Spirulian:

Potent Anti-Viral Activity
In April 1996, scientists from the Laboratory of Viral Pathogenesis, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and Earthrise Farms, Calipatria, California, announced on-going research, saying "Water extract of Spirulina platensis inhibits HIV-1 replication in human derived T-cell lines and in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. A concentration of 5-10 µg/ml was found to reduce viral production" 1.

HIV-1 is the AIDS virus. Small amounts of Spirulina extract reduced viral replication while higher concentrations totally stopped its reproduction. Importantly, with a therapeutic index of >100, Spirulina extract was non-toxic to the human cells at concentrations stopping viral replication.

Physical Properties

General Analysis

Composition

100% Spirulina

Protein

55 - 70 %

Appearance

fine powder

Carbohydrates

15 - 25 %

Color

dark blue-green

Fats (Lipids)

06 - 08 %

Odor and Taste

mild like seaweed

Minerals (Ash)

07 - 13 %

Bulk Density

.35 to .60 kg/liter

Moisture

03 - 07 %

Particle Size

64 mesh through

Fiber

08 - 10 %


Vitamins (per 10 grams / % U.S. Daily Value)

Vitamins

per 10g

USDV

%DV

Vitamins

per 10g

USDV

%DV

Vitamin A

23000IU

5000IU

460 %

B1 Thiamine

.35 mg

1.5 mg

23 %

Beta Carotene

14 mg

3 mg

460 %

B2 Riboflavin

.40 mg

1.7 mg

23 %

Vitamin C

0 mg

60 mg

0 %

B3 Niacin

1.4 mg

20 mg

7 %

Vitamin D

1200 IU

400 IU

300 %

B6 Pyridoxine

80 mcg

2.0 mg

4 %

Vitamin E

1.0 mg

30 IU

3 %

Folate

1 mcg

0.4 mg

0 %

Vitamin K

200 mcg

80 mcg

250 %

B12 Colobalimine

20 mcg

6 mcg

330 %

Biotin

0.5 mcg

0.3 mg

0 %

Pantothenic Acid

10 mcg

10 mg

1 %

Inositol

6.4 mg

*

* %

Minerals (per 10 grams / % U.S. Daily Value)

Minerals

per 10g

USDV

%DV

Minerals

per 10g

USDV

%DV

Calcium

70 mg

1000 mg

7 %

Manganese

0.5 mg

2 mg

25 %

Iron

15 mg

18 mg

80 %

Chromium

25 mcg

120 mcg

21 %

Phosphorus

80 mg

1000 mg

8 %

Molybdenum

* mcg

75 mcg

* %

Iodine

* mg

150 mcg

* %

Chloride

* mg

3400 mg

* %

Magnesium

40 mg

400 mg

10 %

Sodium

90 mg

2400 mg

4 %

Zinc

0.3 mg

15 mg

2 %

Potassium

140 mg

3500 mg

4 %

Selenium

10 mcg

70 mcg

14 %

Germanium

60 mcg

* mg

* %

Copper

120 mcg

2 mg

6 %

Boron

* mg

* mg

* %

Natural Pigment Phytonutrients (per 10 grams / % total)

Pigments

Color

per 10g

% spirulina

Phycocyanin

Blue

1400 mg

14 %

Chlorophyll

Green

100 mg

1.0 %

Carotenoids

Orange

47 mg

.47%

Natural Carotenoids (per 10 grams / % total)

Pigments

Color

%

per 10g

% spirulina

Carotenes

Orange

54 %

25 mg

0.25 %

>>>Beta carotene

45 %

21 mg

0.21 %

>>>Other Carotenes

9 %

4 mg

0.04 %

Xanthophylls

Yellow

46 %

22 mg

0.22 %

>>>Myxoxanthophyll

19 %

9 mg

0.09 %

>>>Zeaxanthin

16 %

8 mg

0.08 %

>>>Cryptoxanthin

3 %

1 mg

0.01 %

>>>Echinenone

2 %

1 mg

0.01 %

>>>Other Xanthophylls

6 %

3 mg

0.03 %

Total Carotenoids

Orange/Yellow

100 %

47 mg

0.47 %

Natural Phytonutrients (per 10 grams / % total)

Phytonutrient

Composition

per 10g

% spirulina

Gamma Linolenic Acid

Essential Fatty Acid

130 mg

1.3 %

Glycolipids

Lipid

200 mg

2.0 %

Sulfolipids

Glycolipid

10 mg

0.1 %

Polysaccharides

Carbohydrate & Sugar

460 mg

4.6 %

Amino Acids

Essential Aminos

per 10g

%total

Essential Aminos

per 10g

%total

Isoleucine

350 mg

5.6 %

Phenylalanine

280 mg

4.5 %

Leucine

540 mg

8.7 %

Threonine

320 mg

5.2 %

Lysine

290 mg

4.7 %

Tryptophan

90 mg

1.5 %

Methionine

140 mg

2.3 %

Valine

400 mg

6.5 %

Non-Essential

per 10g

%total

Non-Essential

per 10g

%total

Alanine

470 mg

7.6 %

Glycine

320 mg

5.2 %

Arginine

430 mg

6.9 %

Histidine

100 mg

1.6 %

Aspartic Acid

610 mg

9.8 %

Proline

270 mg

4.3 %

Cystine

60 mg

1.0 %

Serine

320 mg

5.2 %

Glutamic Acid

910 mg

14.6 %

Tyrosine

300 mg

4.8 %

Total Amino Acids : 6.2 grams per 10 grams


Sustainable Production?

Hendrik (manager of the project) noted that the water table hasn’t fallen but the water had turned more brackish (more salt content). This isn’t a problem (at present) because spirulina needs brackish water to live in. The effluent is pumped onto the beach and is dried by the sun. There is no adverse affects of the effluent. One of the main reasons this project isn’t totally sustainable (but comes closer than most projects in AV) is the ‘feed’ for the spirulina (sodium decarbinate for every 5 kg of SD they harvest 1Kg of spirulina) plus nitrate, urea and synthetic trace minerals. This comes from China, so transport and the high use of fossil fuels to produce these is the main problem. In the first trial of growing spirulina in AV in 74’ we used cow urine. I realise that selling spirulina on the open market makes this problematic.

Average production here/yr (500Kg in 99’, 1200Kg in 07’) demand is 3000Kg and growing. The markets for spirulina are spreading within India so the further the markets the more fossil fuels will be uses.

Aurospirullina uses PVs to pump all his water needs and uses solar energy for the bulk of the drying operation. Aurospirullina uses electricity for drying (after sun drying you still need to get rest of the moisture out) and grinding it to powder. This energy use is very small. Overall the Spirulina Project is one of the closest Sustainable projects in Auroville. As our bioregion continues to drain its aquifers we will see more salt water intrusion. This is a major threat but not due to the Spirulina operation.

3 comments:

chetan sheth/ chetan.biotech@hotmail.com said...

I want to start the prodiction of spirulina in india. Can u guide me for that in regards the requorements and the costing part? please reply me through email if possible.

Anonymous said...

chetan.biotech@gmail.com

dayanand said...

i want to grow spirulina on sugar industry effluent???????
what should be the characteristic(COD,BOD.Total solids..etc) of that effluent?