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All about Organic Spirulina Cultivation: Basic Requirements, Water Quality, Nutrient Requirements, Economics & much more..

Chintu Das
Chintu Das

Spirulina scientifically known as Arthrospira platensis occurs naturally in warm water alkaline lakes and is known for its nutritional supplement properties. It contains several vitamins, proteins, antioxidants and minerals. Spirulina can grow both in fresh as well as salt water. Also some people grow it in controlled environments in their homes because of its toxin absorbing property. 

Spirulina cultivation process: 

Spirulina can be grown in any closed environment with availability of water. The best temperature to grow Spirulina ranges between 30 to 35 degree Celsius. Any concrete or plastic tank with an adequate amount of sunlight can be used to produce spirulina. 

Cultivation can be considered rewarding as the business offers high income compared to low investment. Buyers are available for the produce as the same is not readily available in the market. A single kilo of spirulina can be sold as high as 1000 rupees per kilo. However, the investment depends on many variable factors such as raw materials, labor, packing, forwarding etc. that changes from place to place. 

Spirulina grows on inorganic materials and needs very less organic materials. That is the reason that the term “Organic Spirulina” does not make much sense. However, while cultivation is done, there are ways to feed Spirulina only organic or chemical material. Most of the certification bodies do not clear policies regarding the cultivation of “Organic Spirulina”. 

Cultivation Requirements: 

Commercial cultivation can be done in places with tropical as well as subtropical climates. The growth for the same demands sunshine throughout the year and also depends on other factors such as wind, rain, radiation from sun and variations in temperature.  

For optimum protein content as well as higher rate of production, the temperature has to be maintained between 30 to 35 degree Celsius. Culture bleaching occurs when the temperature is higher than 35 degree Celsius. Spirulina cannot survive anything under 20 degree Celsius. Spirulina requires a proper balance of chemicals and specific minerals for growth. pH levels should be between 8 and 11.   

The concentration of light has a major impact on the growth of spirulina. It affects the availability of protein content, rate of growth and pigment synthesis. Anything between 20 to 30 K lux of light concentration is considered optimum and cultivation under yellow, red, white and green light gives out maximum protein content in the yield. 

Quality of water:  

Standard quality of water should be maintained all throughout the cultivation cycle and can be attained by getting a restrained salt water solution. The pH levels must range between 8 and 11. The water levels should be maintained in a controlled manner. Higher water levels in the tank can lead to difficulty in photosynthesis and algae development. Average water level should be kept 25 centimeter.  

Starting an organic spirulina farming: 

Cultivation requires a cement or plastic tank, which gets an adequate amount of sunlight. With adequate amount of sunshine, it takes a minimum of 10 to 15 days time for the spirulina to develop. The same when developed in the winter season takes a bit more days and also there should not be any sort of contamination in the tank. 

Nutrients required for organic spirulina farming: 

Spirulina farming needs a high dosage of organic nutrients. Bacterial count can be more as they tend to feed on such nutrients. The final produce might not contain bacteria as most of the producers use pasteurization, irradiation and fumigation processes. A major component is nitrogen that helps in the formation of protein. Some of the fertilizers used for growing spirulina are compost tea and certain manures. 

Farming procedure: 

Spirulina is commonly known as blue-green algae. The used pond water needs to be maintained with a proper pH level and the required amount of salt has to be added to make it alkaline. For proper growth, add 30 grams of spirulina for every 10 liters of water. Also, for seeding the pond, live concentrated spirulina culture can be used. Commercial farming requires one separate pond for rearing spirulina as seed. This reduces the need for regular purchase and the same can be sold to other farmers. 

The algae starts to multiply within the next 3 to 5 days. The amount of nutrients has to be checked regularly and also fresh water has to be added at regular intervals for optimum production and quality of produce. The spirulina that matures changes its colour from light to dark green. Concentration levels of algae and its colour determines the harvesting time for the produce. Average water level of 25 centimeter has to be maintained.  

Contamination is another area to be taken care of strictly. Any sort of breeding of insects, foreign algae and chemical contamination can lead to lesser production. Presence of chlorine in the water will lead to total loss of the production. Apart from this larva’s existence in the water will lead to lesser production and contamination. 

Harvesting: 

Concentration of .5 gram per liter of water is the best possible algae concentration for its harvest to begin. The same can be achieved within a time frame of 10 days once the seeding phase is over. Once the algae is collected, it is passed through a simple filter and collected. After that it needs to be cleansed with water. Cleansing is done once the water passing through the filter becomes fully transparent. After the filtration is over, it is pressed upon large weights to further reduce the moisture. Further processing includes machines that make thin strips and the same are kept in the sun for further drying. Next phase includes grounding that makes powder, which is later checked for edibility in the laboratories. 

Economics: 

The production of Spirulina in a month will be around 100 to 130 kg per month. Dry Spirulina powder in the market will fetch about Rs. 600/- per kg. A farmer can earn about 40-45,000/- per month. 

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