There are some environmental advantages of growing Spirulina that are worth mentioning. These features of Spirulina become especially important if developments in technology bring cost of production to make it a protein source competitive enough with the current cheap sources of protein like soya beans. Spirulina production is not associated with some of the environmental degradations like soil erosion, water contamination, and deforestation that are so commonly encountered in conventional crop production.46 The following features of Spirulina production are important in this respect:
1. Spirulina is grown in marginal land unsuitable for conventional agriculture. It can also be grown in sea water, and thus there is a vast potential to grow it in the coastal areas of the tropical and subtropical areas of the world where again the land is not useful for conventional agriculture.
2. Spirulina requires lower land area utilization on a protein production basis (20 times less land than soybeans).
3. More efficient water use on a protein basis (one-third of the water needed for soy, one-fifth of that of corn).
4. Spirulina production is energy efficient (3.5 times more efficient than soy production).
5. Unlike most conventional crops and other feed or food products, the biomass produced is wholesome, with all components being used as food and no biomass waste to deal with.
6. The cell wall of Spirulina is not composed of indigestible cellulose as in other plants. It is composed of more than 60% protein on dry weight basis, the rest being composed of carbohydrates and fats. As such it is easily digested and wholly utilized.
7. The culture system is a closed-loop system where the nutrients are recycled completely with minimal discharge to the environment.
8. Owing to the fast growth rate of the algae (turnover time of about 4-5 days), nutrients are stripped off the medium at a very fast rate, leaving virtually no detectable levels at the end of the growth season.
9. Although Spirulina production currently uses carbon dioxide from commercial sources, it can conceivably use carbon dioxide from power plants, thus contributing to CO2 mitigation.
10. No pesticides or herbicides are needed for its production, thus minimizing environmental pollution.
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