Inspirall: Organic Spirulina
A Microscopic Solution to Big Problems
Imagine a basket full of food—carrots, radishes, spinach, milk, blueberries, eggs, and apples. The cost of this basket is somewhere around $30 USD.
What if I told you that you could get the same nutritional value for less than $1 USD, from a single spoonful of green powder? It’s true!
One spoonful of spirulina contains the same nutritional value as a whole basket of food—at a fraction of the cost.
Alma Roblin, at the 2017 Fledge 10 Demo Day in Lima, Peru.
Alma Roblin and Francesco Persivale, cofounders of the Peruvian company Inspirall, saw an opportunity in 2016 to solve some of the world’s most daunting problems: malnutrition, food insecurity facing an ever-growing population, and global warming. They believed that the solution to all of these problems was to be found in an ancient, spiral-shaped cyanobacterium: spirulina. Together, they came up with an innovative proposal that won the Fledge Acceleration Program and allowed them to develop a prototype for organic spirulina farming.
In 2017, Inspirall, the first company to produce spirulina in fresh and crunchy forms, was born. The name is a clever play on words that represents spirulina’s spiral shape and the company’s desire to inspire the world. Roblin and Persivale wanted to remind us that we are all connected, and that together we can end anemia and malnutrition and help the planet. Today, their farm is helping some of the most impoverished communities in Peru, all while providing consumers with a high-quality, nutritious, tasty product.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a microscopic, filamentous aquatic cyanobacterium (algae) that has become a popular dietary supplement due to its high nutritional value. It is composed primarily of complete protein (70%), is high in vitamins, and is easily absorbed by the human body (95% assimilation). According to NASA, there is more nutritional value in one kilogram of spirulina than in 1,000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables. This incredible supplement also contains:
- 3,900% more beta-carotene than carrots
- 2,300% more iron than spinach
- 375% more protein than tofu
- 300% more calcium than milk
Impressive, right? That’s not all. Spirulina is also rich in many minerals and antioxidants. In addition, it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and produces oxygen while it grows. It is thanks to this last fact that we have life on earth today.
A Brief History of Spirulina
Approximately four billion years ago, the first organisms appeared on Earth: microbes. However, it wasn’t until the appearance of cyanobacterium 3.5 billion years ago that things began to change. These particular microbes, which had the capacity to release oxygen into the atmosphere through photosynthesis, set the stage for life as we know it. The introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere was the catalyst that allowed multicellular life to form and evolve into plants and animals.
Spirulina was first used as a food called dihe during the Kanemi empire in IX Century Chad. It appeared again in 16th-century Mexico during the Aztec empire as tecuitlatl. In the 1940s, this amazing alga was rediscovered once again in Chad by the French psychologist Dangeard. By 1967, “spirulina [had been] established as a wonderful future food source in the International Association of Applied Microbiology.”
What Makes Inspirall´s Organic Spirulina Special?
Inspirall has aligned itself with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is revolutionizing the organic spirulina market. They are making a high-quality and tasty product, providing a solution for malnutrition, creating food security, and improving air quality. Furthermore, their integral business model empowers every stakeholder in their food supply chain by connecting them to end consumers and reducing the number of middlemen.
Most of us know spirulina as a green powder with a potent smell and not-so-great taste. So, how does Inspirall manage to make such a tasty product? Spiru Crunchies, Inspirall’s signature product, are superior in taste and nutritional value due to a process of dehydration. Most spirulina producers have a hard time keeping up with production, because the alga duplicates itself every 24 hours. To harvest and preserve it, producers typically employ heavy machinery that destroys 90% of it and burns the rest! That’s right, 99% of spirulina producers are burning their product!
Inspirall uses an artisanal approach. They dehydrate their algae over a three-hour period in a controlled 42 °C environment—without the use of heavy machinery. This maintains the product’s natural umami and nutrients.
Preserving the nutritional value of spirulina is a priority for Inspirall. They know that one quarter of the world population is malnourished, while another quarter is overweight. In Peru, half the children under the age of three are anemic, and almost half a million children over the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Organic spirulina can provide sufficient nutrition at low enough cost to solve this problem.
Another problem is the ever-growing world population. How will we feed ten billion people in a sustainable way? Spirulina can grow anywhere, without the need for fertile soil. It is possible to harvest it every single day, without seasonal limitations. It can potentially produce over 700 times more protein per hectare per year than beef. All it requires is a little bit of water. Alma Roblin estimates that it is possible to repay the cost of a spirulina microfarm ($50,000 USD) within a year.
This is our sustainable solution!
And let’s not forget spirulina’s first contribution to Earth: oxygen. Our planet is getting hotter, causing extreme weather. High CO2 emissions and other air pollutants that get trapped in our atmosphere in the greenhouse effect are a major cause of global warming.
Spirulina’s ability to absorb CO2 and produce oxygen can significantly help us in the fight against climate change. It is arguably the crop with both the smallest environmental footprint and the greatest nutritional benefits.
Inspirall is a special company. They provide a tasty and high-quality product, help impoverished communities fight malnutrition, and promote environmental consciousness. In addition, they encourage individuals to grow their own organic spirulina, providing all the necessary information to do so and helping Peruvian spirulina farmers improve their practices and receive higher payments for their product.
Producers Market is glad to feature a company so carefully designed to inspire and nourish us all in the campaign Know Your Farmer.
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