Rakibul's spirulina farm
- Investment: Tk4.5 lakh
- Monthly income now: Tk60,000-80,000
- Per month collection from reservoir: 15-18 kgs of algae
- Per kg sold to pharma, nutrition companies at: Tk4,000
Moving away from traditional cattle, poultry or fish farming, a Rajshahi entrepreneur has taken up the commercial farming of spirulina, a blue-green algae enriched in protein, considering it a safe bet as there is assured market and regular income from it.
And, in no time, Rakibul Sarkar saw his venture turn profitable. All he invested was Tk4.5 lakh for his current income that amounts to Tk60,000-Tk80,000 a month.
In March this year, he first constructed a 17,000-litre artificial reservoir to cultivate spirulina at Amsho village in Tanore upazila.
Spirulina is considered a dietary supplement – "whole food" – is loaded with proteins, antioxidants, numerous vitamins and minerals.
Rakibul first applied several chemical solutions in the reservoir to create an oceanic atmosphere and poured 15 litres of live spirulina culture in his tank.
To make sure the reservoir had access to direct sunlight, he covered it with tin made of transparent plastic. To shield the reservoir from germs and insects, it was also covered with transparent polythene and a plastic net. An oximeter generator was also installed to ensure the proper flow of oxygen in the reservoir.
"After the initial installation process, there is not much follow-up cost. When nutrients in water start to wane, I refill it with nutrient solutions, but I have to do that only twice a year," said Rakibul.
Every month, he collects at least 15-20 kgs of spirulina from his reservoir. The spirulina then is salted and dried at a controlled temperature. It then is sold in airtight bottles.
Rakibul's primary customers are domestic pharmaceutical and nutrition companies and he sells the spirulina at Tk4,000 per kg.
Reminiscing about how he got started, Rakibul said it all started after he first heard the term "Blue Economy."
"I learned that it meant sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth while making sure the ocean ecosystem remains undisturbed. Diving deeper into the idea, I found the concept of spirulina farming. Then, I went to Jhenidah's Delwar Agro Farm to receive primary training and I have not had to look back since then," he added.
Rakibul said as spirulina farming is non-capital-intensive, those struggling with unemployment can give this a shot.
"Spirulina has high demand abroad due to its nutritious nature. So, I believe Bangladesh has immense potential in this sector. I hope the government will recognise this and provide us with the patronage we need to go further," he added.
Applauding Rakibul's initiative, Dr Sabrina Naz, professor of Botany, University of Rajshahi, said, "Rakibul Sarkar's farm is the largest in the area and we have tested the spirulina from his farm. We can happily assure you that it is perfectly edible and there are no harmful substances in it."