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Spirulina cultivation: low investment, high income

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PROMISING ALTERNATIVE: Retna Raja Singam, programme co-ordinator of Oferr at the spirulina farm at Navallor village in Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu.
PROMISING ALTERNATIVE: Retna Raja Singam, programme co-ordinator of Oferr at the spirulina farm at Navallor village in Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu.

M.J. PRABU

One kg of dry spirulina powder is being sold at Rs. 1,000 in the market

IN THE context of rising input costs and low returns in agriculture, spirulina (Arthro spira platensis), also called as blue green algae seems to promise farmers good income than other regular crops with very little investment.

Protein food

Spirulina is a nutritious protein food supplement and is also used in the manufacture of several medicines, and cosmetics. Its cultivation on a commercial scale is slowly catching up with many farmers in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. With an unseasonal monsoon and problems in marketing many farmers have taken up spirulina cultivation as they have an assured market and a regular income, according to Mr. K. Retna Raja Singam, Programme Co-ordinator, Oferr, Nallayan Research Centre for Sustainable Development in Navallor village in Kanchipuram district Tamil Nadu.

Suitable area

"Spirulina grows well in regions having temperature between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. Though it can be grown in cement or plastic tanks of any convenient size, it is preferable if the tank size s about 10 x 5x 1.5 feet.About 1000 lts of water must be filled in the tank to a height of about one to two feet . About 1 kg of spirulina mother culture should be released into the tank along with 8g of sodium bi carbonate, 5g of sodium chloride,0.2 g of urea, 0.5 g of potassium sulphate, 0.16 g of magnesium sulphate, 0.052 ml of phosphoric acid and 0.05ml of ferrous sulphate (all measurements for one litre of water). The water should be agitated every day for a week using a long stick for half an hour.

Harvest time

After 10 days spirulina is ready for harvest. The algae can be harvested using small plastic buckets and poured into a mounted filter, which drains the excess water. The drained spirulina is then wrapped in clean muslin cloth and pressed under a weight of 50 kg to further drain the moisture. It is then put in small machines (used in noodle manufacturing) and squeezed in the form of noodles on a dry, clean cloth under the sun.It is then allowed to dry for 2-3 hours after which it is ground in a machine (similar to a flour machine) and the powder is sent to the lab for testing. It is then packed in small airtight plastic covers, and is ready for consumption.About 2gm of spirulina powder can be mixed in cold water, juice or ice cream and consumed. "At present we are cultivating spirulina in about 15 tanks. In a day we we are harvesting about 1 kg of spirulina from each tank. One kg of dry spirulina powder is being sold at Rs. 1,000 in the market.

Gross income

"In a month we are able to earn about Rs, 60,000 as gross income from this spirulina," said Mr. Retna Raja Singam. Even after deducting the expense for maintenance and employment for six persons we are able to realize a net profit of Rs. 30,000, he explained.

Training programme

"Though Oferr was created solely for the purpose for giving training to Sri lankan refugees on spirulina cultivation, we have also started conducting training programmes to several farmers in our farm. Till date we have conducted nearly 5000 training camps," said Mr. Retna Raja Singam. Mr. K. Retna Raja Singam, Programme co-ordinator can be reached at Oferr, Nallayan Research Centre for Sustainable Development, Navallor village, Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, email: oferr@eth.net, phone: 044- 28193063(office),mobile: 98840-00413 and 98840-00414(farm)


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