May 15 - The potential of algae to feed the hungry is being turned into reality by students at a high school In Tel Aviv. The students are developing a system to convert highly nutritious spirulina alga into powder for distribution in poor African communities. While spirulina won't stave off hunger, it can prevent malnutrition, a leading cause of childhood deaths throughout the developing world. Jim Drury reports.
Spirulina algae being cultivated by children at Tel Aviv's Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium school. The cyanobacteria occurs naturally in tropical lakes but can also be nurtured into a food source that's rich in proteins. The children are growing industrial quantities for distribution in impoverished African communities. It won't wipe out hunger, but it could help stave off malnutrition, a leading cause of death among children there. The students say Spirulina is easy to grow but, according to Feiyah Hadar, requires daily attention. SOUNDBITE (English) FEIYAH HADAR, STUDENT, SAYING: "We put the bottles in and it gets this direct sunlight from the sun and we also have these little tubes that mixes them and gives them carbon dioxide." UPSOT: BUBBLING WATER Aerating the mixture with carbon dioxide helps the algae breed faster and reach optimal Ph purity. Project adviser Boris Zlotnikov is helping the children overcome inherent difficulties. SOUNDBITE (English) BORIS ZLOTNIKOV, SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR TO PROJECT, HAS FARM CULTIVATING ALGAE IN NEGEV DESERT, SAYING: "The Israeli climate is not that good for cultivating anything and we're here to adapt the current technologies for growing this micro algae to the Israeli climate and then to further adapt it to the rest of the world." Under the supervision of teacher Lydia Sasson the students are trying to uncover the optimal protocol for growing spirulina, which will be turned into powder. They've set up a non-profit NGO called Algeed. Its CEO is pupil Elad Dvash. SOUNDBITE (English) ELAD DVASH, ASSOCIATE CEO, SAYING: "I'm checking the algae for contaminations and I'm checking if the contaminations are alive. If they're alive we'll have to throw the algae away." The project is the brainchild of school principal Zeev Degani, who wants his pupils to teach children in other Israeli schools, both Jewish and Arabic, once they've perfected their formula. He hopes the project, which is attracting interest from international organisations like UNESCO, will have a big impact in Africa. SOUNDBITE (English) ZEEV DAGANI, PRINCIPAL OF GYMNASIA HERZLIYA HIGH SCHOOL, SAYING: "I hope that at the end of 2014 we will be in touch more or less with half a million children that suffer with hunger, so it's a big project." Spirulina powder contains 70 percent protein, more than any other natural food and includes essential amino acids and vitamins....food for thought, say the students, for policy-makers throughout the developing world.