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From Mars to Congo, the amazing applications of spirulina

Germain Mottet
25 October 2018
Spirulina is well known for its nutritional benefits. It is produced in Congo, in partnership with Entrepreneurs pour entrepreneurs, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) and the NGO Congo Villages. This culture will provide additional healthy food on site and allow organic purposes in recycling method when travelling in space.

 

As part of its space research, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) (Mol) has been studying spirulina for nearly 25 years. This variety of microalgae, high in proteins, vitamins and essential minerals, is particularly suitable as a food supplement, especially for astronauts. In addition to its nutritional properties, the research carried out by the SCK•CEN Microbiology Laboratory and the European Space Agency (ESA) has revealed the key role of spirulina in the development of a biological solution for waste recycling. It would be entirely possible to treat wastewater, CO2 and organic materials in order to turn them respectively into drinking water, oxygen and food during long-duration space missions, such as to Mars, for example.

SCK•CEN researchers have decided to use this expertise in a humanitarian project, in collaboration with Entrepreneurs pour entrepreneurs, an non-profit organisation that promotes economic partnerships in developing countries through local entrepreneurship. This project, called “Inspiration”, aims to develop the spirulina culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly half of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. This project contributes to the fight against these children's malnutrition by adding spirulina to their daily diet.

A pilot project was launched in 2016 in the village of Mooto where the first spirulina growing ponds were built. SCK•CEN also developed the pedagogical dimension of the project, by transferring its knowledge on spirulina to the Schools of Agronomy in Mbandaka and by supervising a doctoral work on the subject at the National Pedagogical University in Kinshasa.

A man pours a culture of spirulina in a big recipient with water.
© SCK•CEN
DR Congo Food security
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