An expert  from the University of Arizona in the United States has praised the high quality of Aztec Spirulina produced at a modern facility in Cainta, Rizal, which he visited recently.

By Zac Sarian

The company, Aztec Foodgrowers Corp., is owned by Engr. Napoleon Puente and his family. The expert is Dr. Joel Cuello, a professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering. His expertise is in applying engineering to agricultural and biological systems. One example is in the growing of algae, like Spirulina, for large scale commercial production. He is also an expert in space farming or advanced life support. 

Dr. Cuello said that the Aztec growing facility observes a high level of cleanliness. The Spirulina is cultured in ponds under a roof and walls made of screens. The farm is unlike the production facilities in other countries, which are usually in open ponds outdoors. At the Aztec growing facility, he said he did not see any contamination because it is very hygienic. 

He considers Aztec’s operation as really green and sustainable. The natural product that the company is producing is really of high value and quality.

Dr. Cuello said that Spirulina is a very important source of nutrition and urged that more Filipinos should partake of it. He pointed out that Spirulina, the blue green algae, is a natural source of proteins that are available out there. This is not a new discovery. He said that it has been known for ages by ancient cultures like China. The Chinese have been using it as food for humans and even for animals like ducks, pigs and fish for centuries now. 

The main benefit, he said, is the high protein content of 60 to 70 percent in a number of Spirulina strains. Spirulina also contains some substances that are considered antioxidants, which are very good at protecting cells against damage. Spirulina also contains some beneficial fatty acids as well as other useful chemicals.

He stressed that everybody should be taking Spirulina, including pregnant moms, children, athletes, and those on diets.

Dr. Cuello disclosed that he came to know of Aztec Spirulina after reading the article written by this author in the Sunday supplement of Manila Bulletin, Panorama, during a visit to the Philippines some three years ago. He said that the article caught his attention and that he, in fact, saved the page. During his visit this year (2017), he was lucky enough to visit the farm in Cainta.

What does Dr. Cuello think about the benefits that Spirulina can contribute to the world? He said that the world’s population is now about 7 billion people. By 2050, it will go up to 9.5 billion. The 2.5 billion additional people, he said, is just like adding another China and India to our planet. And that would mean our food production will have to increase by 70% and crop production will have to double to be able to meet that astronomical demand.

And so, he said, there is huge pressure on our resources in terms of land, water, nutrients, and energy. The sad news is that most of our arable land globally is being utilized, hence there is not a lot of land that is still remaining for agriculture. A lot of fresh water is already being consumed. And nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, are quite expensive. So we need a source of food that is full of nutrients, easily grown, and accessible to a lot of people. That is algae, particularly Spirulina, which is a very rich source of protein plus some other beneficial nutrients and compounds.

His aspiration for the Philippines, Dr. Cuello said, is for Spirulina to be recognized as a rich source of nutrients for Filipinos. He stressed that the Philippines is a small country with a huge population that is still exploding. So there is a need for a food product like Spirulina to be well-recognized and popularized in this country.

By the way, Napoleon Aztec Spirulina can be contacted at 0917.847.7947 for more information.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2017 issue.