“I just spent a small amount initially,” Nguyen Ha Hai, 59, a customer who bought from them and has already set up an indoor system, said.
Earlier he used to buy fried spirulina powder from the US for his mother’s health and raves about its efficacy: “It has been really useful for my mother. Her health has improved.”
Tran Dinh Trong, 22, the leader of the group, said the idea to grow the nutrient-dense algae took root following a suggestion by a teacher at university.
“My group members were very excited by spirulina’s amazing therapeutic properties and dense nutrient content.”
Growing the algae indoors is popular in the US and Japan, he said.
The cyanobacteria is an edible spiral-shaped aquatic blue-green algae that grows naturally in alkaline waters in warm regions. It has its origins in South America and Africa.
Throughout history this remarkable aquatic plant has nourished people in Africa, America and Asia.
Nguyen Nhat Phong, 22, another group member, said the group did about seven months of research in the school laboratory before trying to sell the know-how. It meets high organic standards, he said.
Spirulina contains various easily digestible bio-active components that promote optimal health in humans.
It is cheap, safe and filled with more nutrients than any other known food.
Each aspect, like nutrient content, pH factor, and temperature to grow indoors is carefully calculated before selling to a customer, Phong said.
He said the quantity they grow is enough for three people for four months.
Nguyen Minh Quoc, 22, another member, said growing spirulina is like breeding ornamental fish indoors, and it is very simple for their customers who only need to plug the aeration machine.
When the algae is degraded and productivity becomes low, the group replenishes the seeds for the customer to continue farming, he said.
"The [glass or plastic] tanks should be installed in sunny places though only 30 percent of the maximum outdoor sunlight is required.”
To increase productivity, lights are required at night to promote photosynthesis, he said.
The group sells packages costing 1.7 million-4.2 million VND (75-185 USD) depending on the size and shape of the tank.
The package consists of what is nothing more than a simple fish tank with a capacity of 80-100 litres, nutrients, an aerator and seeds.
After a week one can begin harvesting around 30 percent of the algae in the tank every day.
The fresh algae can be added directly to food and drink or used to make face masks.
It can be stored in the refrigerator.
Trong said they plan to expand production in the near future.
They have opened a small shop displaying and selling the system at No 1/8 Doan Gioi Street, Tan Phu District.
Since opening in August it has sold more than 30 systems, mostly to customers from HCM City but also some from some southern and central provinces, he said.
He is hopeful of recouping the initial investment in the next few months.
“I hope this product will become popular in the domestic market and other markets in the region.”
Prof Dr Trinh Van Dung of the faculty of chemical engineering at the HCM City University of Technology said growing spirulina at home is useful and the breeding process is very simple.
“I expect it will be embraced by many people to improve their and their family members’ health.”
Spirulina is a super food rich in protein and vitamins.
Multiple studies on its efficacy and potential clinical applications have found it can reverse anaemia (rich in iron), has powerful antioxidants and anti- inflammatory substances, can lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, mitigate allergies, help control blood sugar and fight cancer, improve muscle strength and endurance, protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and detox the body.
It is commonly available in powder or tablet form.
Prof Nguyen Lan Dung, the first in the country to propagate the benefits of spirulina, said its protein content is 15-20 percent higher than in meat, 35 percent higher than in soya beans, and 12 percent higher than in eggs.
“I use fresh algae every day for disease prevention and improving my health”.