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Algae for all: Family farm in Switzerland harvests an unusual crop

Inside a Swiss long greenhouse is what looks like a huge wading pool. Only the water is fluorescent green! This is the nursery for millions and billions of spirulina plants. Molecules? Or...what exactly is spirulina? Mathieu Etique explains.

"The technical definition? A free-floating, filamentous cyanobacteria characterized by cylindrical, multicellular trichomes in an open left-handed helix. Uh-huh... So basically, spirulina is a microscopic blue-green algae that is edible and chock-full of iron, proteins, vitamins, and antioxidants."

The spirulina farm was born out of need. After Morgane and Mathieu Etique had their first baby, Morgane looked for a job she could do from home on their three-generation farm.

During her pregnancy Morgane took spirulina as an iron supplement. When they learned it was imported, the couple wondered if they could grow it. They researched and realized they already had most of the equipment they needed on hand.

The Etiques use the farm’s greenhouses to start tobacco and cucumber plants in early spring, but then they sat unused for nine months. Meanwhile the family was installing an electric biogas plant on the farm and looking for a way to use excess heat from production. So they built a shallow pond with beams and tarps, got some spirulina starts, ran heat under the basins, and became the country’s first spirulina farmers.

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