Give a man a spirulina and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to grow spirulina and the man feeds his village every day.
The heart of our locations are the spirulina ponds, in which the algea is cultivated. Since the beginning of our work, we have constantly improved our construction and adapted it to the respective onsite conditions. Besides our breeding ponds, our locations have drying chambers, too. As soon as sprirulina is ready for harvest, it is sieved through special cloths and gently dried, before it gets further processed to powder.
The spirulina ponds
The cultivation of spirulina takes place in salt water ponds with a size of 15 m x 4 m and a depth of 40 cm. They are built out of waterproof concrete. For that purpose, it was very important for us to obtain all our buliding materials from local sources.
Besides a high pH, two other things are necessary for an optimal growth of spirulina: enough sunlight and a sufficiently high oxygen concentration. Latter is guaranteed by a good circulation in the basins, for which we have constantly adapted and, over the years, continuously developed our pond constructions further. Remarkable here is the additional concrete wall, which divides the ponds in the middle. At the inside, the edges are curved and there’s a slope instead of hard edges between bottom and sidewalls. Like that, a cycle is created inside the construction, which is driven by a solar energy powered, specially designed water wheel (paddle wheel). Here, the crucial thing is that the wheel needs to turn slowly, in order to avoid the destruction of spirulina, while it allows its continuous circulation.
Depending on the locations, we made several adjustments according to the different prevailing conditions. For example, fine nets protect spirulina from sand in Turkana, which is blown into the breeding ponds by the wind and in Ebukanga, a light permeable roof shields spirulina from rain water, which otherwise would alter the required salt concentrations.
Here we have documented the construction of our second location in Ebukanga.
Our superfood can be harvested within a few days. Spirulina is ready, when the culture has multiplied to such an extent that the single spirulina cells get hooked one in each other, because of its helical structure. The algea, whose appearance reminds a bit of spinach, can be fished out of the water with the help of sievers or nets. For the harvesting process, we use thin-meshed plastic nets, which are clamped into wooden frames.
Afterwards, these wooden frames could be placed into our drying chambers. These are simple wooden constructions, which are heated up by the sunlight. Thus, spirulina can be dried in a gentle, natural way without direct exposure to the sun. Like that, not only is spirulina’s durability extended, but all its essential nutrients remain intact.
In a further process, the superfood is processed to powder, with the advantage that spirulina powder could easily be added to local meals.
Another great advantage of spirulina in our fight against malnutrition is its growth by cell division. It is practically impossible to harvest the whole spirulina culture out of the pond. Thus, the remaining cells can still divide with an exponential growth rate, so that they can be already harvested again within a few days, without the need for new culture “seeding”.
Quality is important for us! That’s why we verify the purity of our sprirulina more than once. Our farm manager examines the superfood regularly under the microscope. Like that, possible contaminations can be detected and directly fixed at early stages. Moreover, we are in the process of registrating our spirulina at the local authorities as an official food. Therefore, it has to pass strict tests. Furthermore, we work on an innovative sensor system for the surveillance and control of our superfood.