How this company is changing the way we consume vitamins and mineralsSirisha Damarla
Ever since Aakas Sadasivam, an aeronautical engineer, learnt about the nutritional properties of spirulina, a multicellular algae, it had been his dream to make it available in local markets. Started as a small pilot farm in Karur, Prolgae Spirulina Supplies is gearing up to realising his dream and, thus, increasing access to this super food.
Ours is a country where a nutritious diet is the privilege of the very few. Upon discovering the importance of spirulina, I couldn’t resist thinking how much the people of India would benefit from it. It isn’t just astronauts and soldiers who need whole foods, the poor of our country require nutrition too. If one product could end hunger and malnutrition, then why not bring it to the local markets, asks Aakas.
He began travelling from place to place, visiting large and small industries to learn more about Spirulina, a blue-green algae that has the potential to be substituted for our regular food. According to research, nutrients found in one kg of spirulina is equal to 1,000 kg of assorted vegetables.
Generally found in fresh water, brine and brackish water, Spirulina is an extremely rich source of protein, as high as 65-71 percent, which is thrice the amount present in beef. Large amounts of chlorophyll and omega 3 and its characteristic as a detoxifier and an antioxidant, spirulina has placed itself high among whole foods. These nutrition-packed properties of spirulina has led NASA to look into this plant as a whole food for astronauts.
On discovering the benefits of spirulina, Aakas started a pilot camp in Karur district of Tamil Nadu. He worked alone in the waters for six months to learn the processes of cultivating spirulina. His hard work bore fruit when he managed to sell his produce in powder form at a local market.
In January 2017, Aakas got in touch with a foreign investor, Mika Rautio, who not only invested in the venture but is also a business partner now. The partnership helped Aakas to reach out to more industries and expand his venture at a quicker pace.
Today, Prolgae Spirulina Supplies, located in Karur district of Tamil Nadu, supplies spirulina to various food and medical industries in the country. Spirulina powder, which is obtained from drying the algae in the sun, can be consumed by mixing it with juice or smoothies, depending on the user's preference. Spirulina can also be sprinkled on salads and soups, infused into raw chocolates, and can be used in many other simple recipes.
In the past few months of establishment, the company has increased its production from 1000 kg to 2000 kg per month, making a gross profit of 1.4 lakhs.
What the future holds
Aakas’s long-term goal is to use spirulina to end widespread malnutrition in India. He plans to supply spirulina, free of cost, to the people living below poverty line. Efforts to begin supplies to orphanages in Coimbatore are underway. Aakas also wants to pitch spirulina as a substitute food for the Indian Army.
With competitors like Parry Nutraceuticals and Sanat Products Ltd. inching their way up the business ladder, Prolgae Spirulina gears up to expand itself. The primary plan is to increase the size of the cultivation pond thereby increasing the production from one to two tonne. The company projects its yearly turnover to be 8 crores. Aakas also envisions a future where spirulina will become an integral part of the food and beverage industry. This would be possible by making spirulina the special ingredient in biscuits, chips, pasta, chocolates and many other food items, turning this into a separate business model on its own.