The Production of Spirulina and Chlorella
The commercial culture of microalgae has been going on for around 30 years. The main species grown are Spirulina and Chlorella for Health food and dietary supplements. Chlorella was the first to excite the attention of the scientific community, but Spirulina gradually took centre stage, owing to the relative ease of production.
There are several different ways Spirulina and Chlorella grown and produced commercially today.
- Lake farms - outdoor lakes in natural, but controlled conditions
- Outdoor pond cultivation systems may use open ponds or even covered greenhouses.
- Small scale ‘family’ production occurs using greenhouses
- Newly developed enclosed systems which transparent tubes or photo-bioreactors.
Lake farms have lower running costs and are less risky than harvesting wild Spirulina or Chlorella. But there are some issues to do with quality and consistency.
The methods used for open outdoor cultivation are relatively unsophisticated. The ponds are large and shallow and have rotating mechanical device for mixing, such as a paddle wheel or rotating arm. Warmth and sunlight are essential, of course, to ensure high chlorophyll content and quick growth.
The water has to be kept moving and the water has to have nutrients added on a regular basis. A key element in successful cultivation of Spirulina and Chlorella is keeping out the weed algae, though this is less of an issue with Spirulina, which likes highly alkaline waters.
There are other potentially exciting blue green - algae which are also attracting interest. The key in mixed farm settings, is, of course, keeping the various strains pure and uncontaminated.
There are Spirulina farms with advanced culitivation systems in Thailand, Hawaii USA, India, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Israel and are continuing to pop up around the world, including Spain and France.
Care must be taken to always purchase Spirulina from a reputable source as there are dangers of contamination, particularly from harvesting wild Spirulina.