Spirulina is a tiny blue-green algae in the shape of a perfect spiral coil. It is a single celled organism capable of photosynthesis, or converting sunlight into life energy.
Spirulina thrives naturally in mineral-rich alkaline lakes all over the world. It is very adaptable and flourishes in different environments, ranging from fresh water, tropical springs, saltwater and brackish water.
More people are now cultivating Spirulina because of its health benefits. Spirulina is being called a “superfood”. It has been proven by scientists to be a complete food that contains vitamins, many minerals, essential amino acids, carbohydrates and enzymes. It is easily digested because it contains at least 60% vegetable protein, which is predigested by the algae. Spirulina is now sold in the market as a health supplement in powder, tablet and capsule form, or as a food additive.
Spirulina is cultivated in open-channel shallow artificial ponds called raceway ponds. The pond is divided into rectangular grids, with each rectangle containing one oblong-shaped channel. A paddle wheel in each channel makes the water flow continuously around it.
Providing plenty of sunlight and maintaining the proper temperature and oxygen levels in the water are important for growing Spirulina. Spirulina is grown organically because chemicals in pesticides and herbicides will kill it along with other tiny life forms in the pond.
Spirulina enthusiasts are experimenting with ways of growing the algae at home. They say that Spirulina can be grown indoors or outdoors, in closed or open systems. An outdoor system can be a shallow pond with a paddlewheel that stirs and aerates the water.
Closed systems utilize transparent tubing. These allow for greater exposure of algae to the light. These also provide better protection against dirt, harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
Methods of growing Spirulina at home continue to be developed. It is a potential answer to problems of hunger and malnutrition in the world.