Industrial vs artisanal spirulina: Towards a healthier and more sustainable ‘superfoods’ sector

Main Presenter: Ana Fernández-Ríos 

Co-Authors: Jara Laso Israel Ruiz-Salmón Pere Fullana-i-Palmer Alba Bala Laura Batlle-Bayer Merce Balcells Rita Puig María Margallo Rubén Aldaco

Environmental degradation and food insecurity are two of the greatest challenges of our time, and its adverse effects undermine the world’s ability to achieve sustainable development. The strong interrelationship between these problems inflicts secondary damages such as large economic losses, and their feedback triggers significant amounts of food waste, aggravating hunger, and causing extreme environmental phenomena. For this reason, the search for new food sources that complement current diets and slow down or diminish these troubles is mandatory. In this context, spirulina is gaining importance in the market due to its great nutritional contribution even when ingested in low quantities, presenting a novel food supplement. However, most spirulina are produced by industrial techniques, in which drying considerably damages spirulina quality and makes it an energy-intensive activity.

For this reason, this work seeks to develop the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of an artisanal production of spirulina, allowing to compare its environmental performance with that reported for an industrial production system. The methodology is based on the LCA guidelines and involves the definition of the scope, the compilation of the inventory data from a company located in Spain, and the evaluation of different environmental indicators addressing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use, among others.

The results of this study will lead to the identification of the main benefits of implementing artisanal production strategies from an environmental perspective, and the analysis of the nutritional assets that artisanal spirulina brings. In addition to filling a ‘gap’ in knowledge about the environmental performance of superfoods, this work also aims to highlight and promote innovative and sustainable business models, which help to encourage the transformation of other competing companies towards more environmentally friendly systems.

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