Moss largesse

Moss largesse Spirulina, a species of microscopic blue green algae commonly found in fresh water ponds, is fast emerging as a source of multicrore business opportunities in India.

Ballarpur Industries Limited (BILI), a Thapar Group company, has already profited from large-scale cultivation of this single-celled microorganism since March 1994. Spirulina is also cultivated on a small-scale by farmers in several Tamil Nadu villages.

A popular health food in many countries for a long time, spirulina's use gained momentum in India only recently. Loaded with proteins and minerals, the algae has been declared by the United Nations World Food Conference (1974), as "the best food for tomorrow". In China, spirulina is prescribed for infants at paediatric hospitals.

Spirulina's protein content, at 65 per cent, is the highest known among natural foods. It contains all the essential amino acids and is also a source of several important enzymes used in genetic engineering and biotechnology. The algae may be one of the cheapest possible sources of nutrition for the poor, and can be consumed as paste, jam, chutney or drink.

According to BILT, lengthy research has revealed that spirulina is the best cure for anaemics. It also improves absorption of vitamin B1 from food. it may even be useful in the protracted treatment of AIDS and is thought to be an important cure for cancer.

The credit for introducing spirulina to India goes to the AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre, Madras. BILT now plans to capitalise by selling spirulina capsules under the brand name 'Prime Life.