Spirulina Farm: Empowerment project of fishing communities in Labuan
Project: Spirulina Farm: Empowerment project of fishing communities in Labuan
Alumni network: Yayasan Indonesia – Jerman
1. Tell about your network: what is the story behind your network?
We are members of the Biotechnology Working Group under Yayasan Indonesia – Jerman, based in Jakarta, which consists of Germany-Alumni and experts with various backgrounds (from science to engineering) who are interested in making a community-based project in Indonesia. This working group was first established on May 24, 2017.
2. Tell us about your project: Why is this project important to your network?
We are focusing our project on the development of microalgae production technology, as Indonesia is one of the largest archipelagic countries. As the second longest coastline (approximately 81,000 km) in the world after Canada, Indonesia has great potential in terms of marine biodiversity and there is a big future for fishery and aquaculture industries to be leveraged.
In line with the concept of Blue Growth or Blue Economy as the strategic policy of the Indonesian government, in particular the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, to support the growth and sustainable development in the fisheries’ sector, our project is to design a spirulina (a microalgae species) production plant in a coastal area in Indonesia.
This idea started from the current circumstances of fishermen who are becoming less prosperous. Although aquaculture has become a strategic sector in food supply and economic growth, the socio-economic status of the fishermen does not see any improvements. Considering the geographical condition of Indonesia, lying on the equator and with adequate sunlight throughout the year, microalgae farming, and especially spirulina production, is suitable as an alternative income source for fishermen and their families, especially when the climate is not suitable for fishing activities.
Spirulina has recently become known as a superfood in worldwide industries, since it contains highly valuable nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, lipids, vitamins and minerals. This blue-green microalga has been popular as a food supplement for humans, ingredients for cosmetics as well as feed supplement for fish or shrimp in their hatching phase. As the oldest life forms on Earth, spirulina as a single-cell organism is able to turn sunlight into micronutrients and has been involved in producing oxygen on the planet.
Spirulina grows naturally in aquatic environments. In commercial production, spirulina can be cultivated in ponds (open system) or bioreactor installations (closed system). The parameters regulating the growth are nutrients, light, temperature, pH, aeration, and salinity. For cultivation, these parameters depend on the characteristics of spirulina species itself.
Spirulina farming plant will be firstly installed in one integrated fishing area in Indonesia, namely in Labuan, Banten. This pilot project can be further expanded to other areas in Indonesia. The product of spirulina can be used domestically by the fishermen as fish feed or feed supplement in order to increase the immunity of larval fish to reduce their mortality rate of fish (Sustainable Development Goals, SGD-12: “Responsible Consumption and Production). Hence, productivity can increase. In addition, the product can be marketed to the pharmaceutical industry as cosmetic ingredient. Overall, this project aims to increase the prosperity of fishermen and communities who have been marginalized (SDG-8: Decent Work and Economic Growth).
3. Who is the target group of your project? How will your target group benefit from this project?
If the results of the pilot project of spirulina farming plant is as successful as expected, in the long term we want to empower the fishermen and their families to develop spirulina farming as alternative or additional sources of income.
4. Where do you see the main challenges for implementing the project? What do you have to consider, plan and organize?
There are several challenges that we have to consider for implementing the project. The challenges can be divided into three categories:
- Technical and engineering: how to successfully formulate suitable media and how to design the reactor for spirulina cultivation.
- Economical: how to make sure that our formula (the media) and the design of the production facilities are economically feasible.
- Social: how to influence people (especially fishermen and their families) to join this project and to avoid social conflict.
5. Which cooperation partners or networks are you working with? Who is helping you to implement your project?
In order to implement this project we need to involve many stakeholders from research institutes, universities and companies that are related with spirulina production and distribution, such as the Indonesian Research Institute of Biotechnology and Bioindustry in Bogor, the Brackish Water Aquaculture Research Institute in Jepara (BBPBAP Jepara), the Microalgae and Spirulina Research Group from Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM, Jogjakarta), private companies and other enterprises.