Spirulina Extraction Process; Methods; Techniques

Spirulina Extraction Process

Today, let us go through Spirulina Extraction Process; Methods; Techniques, and equipment used in planting, processing machinery cost, etc.

Introduction to Spirulina:

Spirulina is one of the oldest life appearances on Earth. Spirulina is the world’s first superfood, & one of the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth. Spirulina is a simple Cyanobacterium (blue-green algae) that produces naturally in freshwater. It has been efficiently promoted as a natural health & slimming food in the market. Spirulina contains nine essential & ten non-essential amino acids, between 55% & 70% protein, as well as high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nucleic acids RNA & DNA, chlorophyll, & phycocyanin, a pigment-protein complex that is found only in blue-green algae.

Dried Spirulina includes about 60 to 70 percent protein. It’s really considered one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein,” meaning it contains all necessary amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, & vitamins A, E, and K. Spirulina could be more beneficial for vegans or vegetarians that lack adequate iron in their diet. Touted as a “superfood,” health claims surrounding the blue-green algae contains its ability to boost immunity, fight allergies, & reduce fatigue.

Spirulina sources:

Spirulina is a spiral-formed microalgae that grows naturally in the wild in warm, freshwater lakes. Its deep blue-green color is what gives the water its greenish shade. Spirulina is also cultivated & harvested in man-made reservoirs like those used by Nutrex Hawaii, on the Kona coast of Hawaii.

This particular kind of Spirulina is the only one of its kind to be cultured in a BioSecure zone that is free of pesticides, herbicides, & GMOs. Available in both powder & tablet forms, Nutrex Hawaii’s 100% vegan Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica is a unique, superior strain of Spirulina, with the highest called nutritional content in the world.

Nutritional profile:

One tablespoon or seven grams (g) of dried Spirulina contains:

20 calories, 4.02 grams of protein, 1.67 grams of carbohydrate, 0.54 g of fat, 8 milligrams (mg) of calcium, 2 mg of iron, 14 mg of magnesium, 8 mg of phosphorous, 73 mg of sodium, 95 mg of potassium, & 0.7 mg of vitamin C.

It also contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, & vitamins B-6, A, and K.

Taking Spirulina, as part of a balanced diet, could help a person to stay well-nourished.

Uses for Spirulina:

According to proponents, Spirulina is supposed to help with the following health problems: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cancer, fatigue, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, & viral infections.

Purported Spirulina benefits include weight loss, increased energy, and stimulation of the immune system.

What’s required to grow Spirulina?

Once an appropriate site is identified, which assembles all the climatic requirements, basins or ponds need to be built. These ponds should be about 3 meters to 4 meters wide and can be as long as 100 meters. The most economical ponds are the ones made of polyethylene & resemble plastic bags hanging off wooden structures, however, as economical as they may be at start-up they have been established to be more expensive to maintain due to the wear & tear of the polyethylene material. The polished cement ponds at the end proved to be the main cost-effective, particularly with the fact that a paddle wheel can put in place which could be solar-powered therefore reducing overall costs.

A polyethylene cover over the pond can decrease evaporation, reduce contamination, increase temperature & decrease crossbreeding all constructive to micro-algae growth. Water requirements are the mainly important step to growing Spirulina, & although Spirulina can grow in a variety of types of high alkaline waters the following “ingredients” are required;

  • Sodium bicarbonate (if direct CO2 is not available)
  • Magnesium sulfate
  • Potassium nitrate
  • Citric acid
  • Common salt
  • Urea
  • Calcium chloride
  • Iron sulfate
  • Ammonium sulfate

The pH should be around 10 at 20˚C – normal tap water is normally around pH 7.

Other facilities are required;

  • Harvesting basins
  • Drying rooms or racks
  • A room to analyze the Spirulina flakes & transforms them into powder and/or capsules

Spirulina products:

Spirulina is a green dry powder, naturally, very dense & difficult to dissolve in cold liquids unless very well ground or pulverized. Mixed in warm foods or drinks is ideally creature careful not to destroy the properties of the powder by mixing with foods that are too high in temperature that means not over 35˚C.

The powder can be sold as-is & consumed in its natural form that means 10 grams or more a day or 2 teaspoons, or capsules can be formed for easy intake. Each capsule contains 0.5mg so around 20 capsules should be taken to make the recommended dosage of 10 grams.

Spirulina powder could be used in juice & health bars, where you can obtain a blend of juices with an extra teaspoon or two of Spirulina as a booster.

In case if you want to check this: Spirulina Farming Project Report.

Spirulina extraction process:

Dried Spirulina.
Dried Spirulina.

Spirulina (Arthrospira) exerts a wide spectrum of pharmacological activities that are mostly attributed to its phycobiliprotein content, mostly to C-phycocyanin. Extraction, isolation, and purification processes for C-phycocyanin have been sought & developed since the 1980s. Throughout this procedure, it has been confirmed that the original biomass is of critical importance in order to reach the best cost-benefit ratio when isolating phycobiliproteins. Another characteristic that must be considered is the freshness of the biomass & the subsequent pretreatment processes. In this series, C-phycocyanin was obtained from fresh biomass & dried at room temperature.  Regarding extraction & purification methods, that multiple cycles, improved the purity grade of the C-phycocyanin extract, although yields considerably decreased. For instance, an aqueous two-phase system with polyethylene glycol 4000 managed to raise purity, but yields were importantly reduced. Similarly, multiple extraction procedures for obtaining C-phycocyanin by using a Sephadex column achieved a yield of 46% with acceptable purity.  Based on the information herein gathered, a protocol was proposed with a one-step extraction procedure in order to obtain both a good yield and a high grade of purity. This was accomplished by means of an aqueous two-phase system with a posterior ultra-alteration, giving C-phycocyanin a yield of 57% and a purity of 3.9, thus surpassing the outcome of previous methodologies. It can be obviously seen that the preferred method should not be based on adsorption or elucidation, thus ruling out chromatography, because these procedures diminish the yield of the extract.

To maximize the health benefits that may be getting from Nutraceuticals, such as C-phycocyanin, it is necessary to seek innovative methods for their isolation and purification, and therefore preserve the valuable properties of these bioactive substances from normal sources. The current evaluation makes it evident that to obtain Nutraceuticals from extracts & achieve good yield and high purity; it is convenient to use aqueous two-phase systems for extraction together with ultrafiltration for purification. It is necessary to believe in the freshness & species of the primary biomass, as these factors heavily control the concentration & viability of the desired phycobiliproteins & therefore affect the yield and purity.

The combination of aqueous two-phase systems for extraction & ultrafiltration for purification results in the best yields & highest purity of the desired nutraceuticals. It is essential to consider the freshness & species of the primary biomass, as these factors heavily influence the concentration and viability of the phycobiliproteins & therefore affect the yield and purity.

In case if you miss this: Spirulina Training Centers In India.

Extraction Procedures of Spirulina:

Phycocyanin was extracted from the wet biomass of Spirulina by using the below methods.

Homogenization: This method involves crushing of cells using mortar & pestle in the presence of acid-washed neutral sand using 50 mm phosphate buffer at pH 6.8.

Freezing and thawing: Biomass was subjected to freezing & thawing for 24 or 48 hours. In the second case (48 hrs), the freezing and thawing process was repeated twice, with 24 hrs intervals.

Sodium phosphate buffer: The sodium phosphate buffer was arranged at pH 7.0 treated with cell biomass incubated at room temperature.

Inorganic acid extraction: The wet biomass was treated with different concentrations of hydrochloric acid that is 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 M in the proportion 5:1 (g biomass: mL inorganic acid) & next left for 24 hours at room temperature.

Organic acid extraction: The process was carried out in the same way used in inorganic acid extraction; in this process, the wet biomass was treated with 1 M of acetic acid at room temperature.

Lysozyme treatment: Lysozyme was added to the biomass in 0.1 mm sodium phosphate buffer (pH 7.0) having 100 mm sodium EDTA solution, to provide a final concentration of 100 μg. mL-1. The biomass was then incubated for 24 hours at room temperature, according to Boussiba & Richmond (1980).

Ultrasonic treatment: Biomass was attached to an ultrasonic bath (50 kHz), with glass pearls in the proportion of 1:1.1 (g biomass: g glass pearls) for 40 minutes.

After extraction, the samples were centrifuged & the supernatant used to verify the extraction yield.

Suitable Conditions:

Spirulina grows in solutions of specific minerals with the correct chemical balance & a pH of 8-11. There are various different recipes for this, depending on the budget available & the conditions. It needs a minimum of 20˚C to grow considerably, though a temperature of 35-37˚C is most effective. A good amount of sunlight is helpful if the culture has a reasonable temperature and concentration. At low temperature, low concentration of culture, or a culture that is struggling to grow.

Drying methods of Spirulina:

The harvested biomass of Spirulina was subjected to different drying procedures and subsequently followed by incubation at 4˚C for 24 h in phosphate buffer at pH 7.0, (0.1 M) for phycocyanin extraction.

  1. Drying in a water bath: 1g of wet biomass of Spirulina was transferred to 50 ml beaker & kept in a water bath at 50˚C for one hour. The dried biomass was then ground in mortar, pestle & sieved through a 120-mesh size sieve.
  2. Drying in direct sunlight: 1g of wet biomass of Spirulina was dried in direct sunlight for one hour when the ambient temperature was 35˚C. (Recorded humidity is 38%) The dried powder was then ground in mortar, pestle & sieved through a 120-mesh size sieve.
  3. Air-drying: 1g of wet biomass of Spirulina was dried at 25˚C below air circulation for 1h in shadow (without exposure to direct sunlight). The dried powder was then ground in mortar, pestle & sieved through a 120-mesh size sieve.

Solubility study of Phycocyanin:

The solubility of phycocyanin for air-dried biomass was considering using different buffers at ambient temperature (27±2˚C) & at low temperature (4 to 9˚C). The experiment was carried with pH ranging from 2.0 to 12.0 in Distilled water; Phosphate buffer at pH range 6.0 to 8.0, citrate buffer at pH range 3.0 to 6.0 & hydrochloric acid from 2.0 N to 10.0 N was studied.

Stability study of Phycocyanin:

The stability of extracting phycocyanin was studied at ambient temperature (27±2˚C) & at low temperature (4 to 9˚C). The extracted phycocyanin was reserved for eight days at the ambient temperature & at lower temperature (4 to 9˚C) conditions. After every 24 hours time interval, the concentration of phycocyanin was found by measuring absorbance at 620 nm. The stability study of phycocyanin at lower temperatures was continued for four months.

You may also check this: Kadaknath Farming Guide, Loan, Subsidy, Contract Farming.

Equipment used to grow Spirulina:

Principle equipment: Cement tanks, Cloth filter, and Trays Aluminum,

Auxiliary equipment: Microscope, Storage bins with lid, Trolleys, Balance, HDPE bags, handling vessels of raw material handling.

The equipment needs to grow Spirulina is fairly straightforward. If you want to simplify the procedure, you can buy Spirulina growing kits that come with everything you’ll need. Or else, you can gather the following items on your own.

  1. Tank

You can grow Spirulina in some containers, depending on how much Spirulina you can use. Good options include a large jar, an aquarium tank, or even a pool in the backyard. Spirulina needs light to grow, so it’s best if the container is transparent.

  1. Culture Medium

Spirulina only needs water & nutrients to grow. It needs water that is very alkaline, with a high pH. You’ll be adjusting the pH yourself, so you do not have to use particularly high-quality water. You can utilize water from a creek, brackish water, dechlorinated tap water, or rainwater. As long as the water isn’t polluted with heavy metals or other toxins, it should work fine.

  1. Spirulina Starter Culture

If you happen to recognize someone who grows Spirulina, you can take a portion of their culture to start your own. You can check your local health food store or find a company online that sells Spirulina culture. It normally comes in a bottle with live Spirulina in water.

  1. Stirring Device

Spirulina needs to be stirred to maximize light getting the entire growing culture. You can do this periodically with a stick or long spoon, or fit a pump with a bubbler.

  1. Harvesting Equipment

Need some type of screen with a very fine mesh of 50 microns in diameter or less. This is utilizing to strain the Spirulina out of the water. Natural silk cloth works well, or a little aquarium net has a fine enough mesh. A large cup is handy to scoop the water into the mesh.

The growing process of Spirulina:

  1. Set up your tank and starter medium:

Whatever container you’re using for your Spirulina, make certain it has good light. Indoors, it can live in front of a window or can use grow lights above it. Outside, try to position it in a light area that’s out of the direct sun.

  1. Check the pH:

The pH of your starter medium must be between 8 and 8.5. Litmus paper is the best way to measure the pH level. It can mainly be found in pharmacies or natural food stores. Dip the litmus paper into the solution for 2 to 3 seconds. Once the color on the litmus paper has changed, balance it to the guide on the box to determine the pH. If the pH is still too low, attach more baking soda. If it’s too high, include a bit of vinegar.

  1. Add your Spirulina culture:

Pour your Spirulina culture into the starter medium & stir gently. Make sure your starter medium & Spirulina culture are both at the same temperature. This helps prevent the Spirulina from available into shock at too much of a temperature difference.

  1. Water your Spirulina:

Water will naturally evaporate over time, so you’ll require keeping it topped up with the same amount you started with. Otherwise, pH or nutrients can come out of balance. It’s helpful to make a mark on the side of your container once starting culture is all done so you can see your initial amount. Then basically keep adding water if you ever see it drop.

  1. Keep your Spirulina warm:

Spirulina is naturally from steamy lakes, so it prefers warm water. It will grow in temperatures between 55 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 38 degrees Celsius), but the ideal temperature is between 89 degrees to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 37 degrees Celsius). Your Spirulina will produce at colder temperatures, it will just be slower. If you desire to maximize the growth, consider installing a heater in your water. Just make certain it does not get over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), as this will start to kill the Spirulina.

  1. Enlarge your culture, if needed:

You can repeat the previous steps to create your culture larger if you’d like. After making your initial culture, wait at least three days for the Spirulina to grow and establish a good population. You must see the culture becoming greener as the Spirulina replicates. Then mix up a new batch of starter medium & add it to your main Spirulina culture. You can do this a few times if needed until the container is full.

  1. Harvesting Spirulina:

As Spirulina grows, the pH of the complete culture will rise. This is the primary basis, why it’s typically very safe to eat Spirulina because almost no other organisms can essentially live in such alkaline conditions. To ensure your Spirulina is safe, wait until the pH of the culture has reached 10 or higher before harvesting it.

After about 3 to 6 weeks of growth, Spirulina must be ready to harvest. And harvesting is as simple as scooping some of the culture’s water out & running it through your mesh cloth or net. The Spirulina will gather on the cloth. Gently squeeze out every excess liquid to avoid consuming the alkaline water. You’ll be left with a green paste.

  1. Feeding the Spirulina:

Each time when you harvest some Spirulina, you’ll need to replenish the nutrients in the main culture. For example, if you take out one tablespoon of Spirulina, you’ll need to add one tablespoon of a nutrient mixture back into the culture. The Ice Age Farmer has an excellent nutrient mix on his website or can buy a pre-made nutrient mix from Spirulina suppliers.

Cost of Spirulina Machinery:

Semi-automatic Spirulina Processing Equipment – Rs 65,000 to Rs 80,000.

Plant and machinery cost more than Rs.3, 00,000.

Benefits of Spirulina:

Contains vegetable protein & amino acids to build muscle

  • High concentration of B Vitamins; which not only break down carbohydrates & lipids but also maintain cardiovascular health.
  • It is an excellent anti-inflammatory, which is an essential benefit to arthritis patients & prevents heart disease.
  • Contains anti-aging properties.
  • Improves digestive health.
  • Contains easy to absorb iron supplements ideal for women & children.
  • Reduces cancer with antioxidant protection.

Losing weight

People can generally lose weight if they eat fewer calories than they use. Spirulina is a high-nutrient, low-calorie food that contains a lot of nutrition in a little amount of powder. Introducing Spirulina to the diet could help people lose weight without losing nutrition.

Lowering cholesterol

Taking a Spirulina extract could help to lower cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an unhealthful fat in a person’s blood that medical professionals link to heart disease.

Reducing blood pressure

As discussed above, Spirulina may lower cholesterol, & there is also evidence that it can help control a person’s blood pressure.

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