Project Lead(s): David McMillen
In the Philippines, 35% of children under 5 years old are anemic. Furthermore, nearly half of Filipino households fail to reach their daily protein needs.
Spirulina, a nutrient-rich algae, provides far more protein per gram than other meat or plant sources. Unfortunately, Spirulina is often sold as a high-end nutritional supplement and is unaffordable for low-income families.
10 grams of Spirulina per day has been shown to improve children’s nutritional status.
The project studied the process of growing Spirulina as an accessible nutritional supplement in the Philippines and implemented the project in Puerto Princesa.
The team setup growth facility prototypes in the Philippines and Canada to measure the growth rates of Spirulina in a novel growth medium.
Spirulina production methods included using locally available technologies like ponds, tubs, stirring and sun drying to mimic the context where the intervention would take place. They also analyzed the costs of producing Spirulina to measure the project’s feasibility.
The study validated the ability to grow Spirulina in the facility in Puerto Princesa. The project’s novel growth medium reduced the cost of production by a factor of 12 compared to other versions of the product within the literature.
When the product was tested for the concentration of contaminants it was found that the inexpensive growth media was comparably effective with other lab-grade media and in some cases had lower contaminant levels than expensive versions.
The Spirulina growth process is not yet robust enough to make it practical for deployment in the next site of Napsan and the refinement of the process is ongoing.
The team is now pursuing scaling options and looking to find more locally sourced plant-based fertilizers and commodity chemicals to ensure the cost of production stays as low as possible.