The Ibero-American University in Puebla (IAU-Puebla), in collaboration with the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Iztapalapa (UAM-Iztapalapa), created a project to cultivate and process spirulina algae in communities in the Northeastern Sierra of Puebla, Mexico, to combat problems of malnutrition in children, a major public health problem.
Oscar Garcia Gomez, professor at the IAU-Puebla, said that for the project the UAM-Iztapalapa will donate the spirulina algae to be cultivated in the Chemistry laboratories of his University. He added that two non-governmental organizations have joined the project to facilitate their access to the communities, due to the work they have already done in the region.
The professor said that when spirulina alga is grown under ideal conditions (laboratory) provides 57 percent by weight of protein. However, if grown outdoors, then its percentage drops to 40 percent.
He explained that a tasting was organized in order to introduce the spirulina to the diet of the children in the communities, in which children were offered spaghetti with spirulina algae.
“The spaghetti had good taste, no odor, but the intense green color of spirulina hindered the 100% acceptation of the children. However, to remedy this problem, the nutrition students proposed to mix the alga with black beans or blue corn to lose color,” he said.
The specialist said that once introduced this alga into the families’ diets, what follows is training the communities so that they can produce, harvest, dehydrate it.
To do this, two bioreactors were installed, consisting of a solar panel and a motor that does not exceed MXP4,000 (USD194), since the climatic conditions (temperatures ranging from 25 to 33 degrees Celsius) favors the growth of spirulina.
“Approximately, with a thousand-liter bioreactor you could supply algae for about 15 families. That is one of its benefits, production is not expensive and do not require constant monitoring for its cultivation,” he said.
The researcher mentioned that among the difficulties they face is the hygiene that must have the crop; otherwise there is a risk of contaminating the product. However, he is confident that the families of these communities will master the process of reproducing the spirulina without problems.