Prolgae is a Nordic-Indian joint venture founded in 2017 by Indian entrepreneur Aakas Sadasivam and Finnish investor Mika Rautio. Expanding from just one initial ‘pilot pond’, Prolgae now operates a large-scale farm in the Karur district of Tamil Nadu, India.
The group currently supplies its spirulina ingredient to a private label company with a presence in France and Spain. But it has ambitious medium-term growth plans co-founder and CEO Sadasivam told FoodNavigator.
“From 2020 I am planning to have a warehouse in Finland,” he explained. At this point, the company intends to launch direct to consumer sales. “We are planning to sell high quality EU organic certified spirulina at an affordable price. It will be 50% less expensive than other companies.”
Sadasivam stressed that Prolgae competes on more than price, claiming that his product has "less heavy metals" and a high protein content. The sun drying process preserves the protein in the spirulina and provides a "crunchy" taste. "We have our own organic formula, which helps us to increase the protein and phycocyanin percentage."
Demand for spirulina is “huge” and increasing every year in Europe, Sadasivam noted flagging the potential of markets like France, the UK, Germany, Spain and the Nordics.
Spirulina is a microalgae well-known for its high nutritional value and supposed health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and even reducing cancer risk.
The blue-green algae became famous after it was successfully used by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions. According to the FDA, it contains significant levels of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. It also has essential amino acids and protein accounts for 60-70% of the algae’s dry weight.
These health associations mean it has a strong appeal as a supplement to “health fitness and gym people starting”, Sadasivam said.
But he has bold expansion plans and wants to start extracting phycocyanin for medical use and selling tablets to consumers through his website.
"Many nutraceuticals companies and food companies will use it for food colouring and antioxidants tablets. Also I am going sell 10mg phycocyanin tablets in my online store which will give high antioxidants."
From chocolate and cookies to coffee and tea
Appealing to a broader cross section of society is central to Prolgae’s mission, the algae entrepreneur claimed. “We have a noble cause to fight against malnutrition and give healthy foods to all.”
To this end, Prolgae started R&D work to develop algae-based foods last year. “We thought: ‘Why can’t we change the culture of chocolate, cookies?’ We planned our chocolate and cookies should be organic and vegan.”
In addition, Prolgae has developed its recipes to include other “superfoods” as ingredients, including chia seed, flax seed and Indian millets like pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, and kodo millet.
Having secured second round seed investment from a Slovakian investor, the group is moving towards commercialisation of this concept.
“Soon we will start making healthy organic vegan chocolate and cookies. This will give more protein, vitamins, energy to everyone. Also this will provide antioxidants and cure many health diseases because we going to add spirulina into this products,” Sadasivam claimed.
And the company’s efforts in R&D continue apace: “In the future we going to launch spirulina tea, coffee, yoghurt, etcetera.”
Prolgae is now seeking further investors to help bring these new innovations to market in Europe and the US. The company also wants to grow awareness of spirulina in India, where it has started branding and marketing work.
“India has a huge population, so if we do the correct branding marketing work then it [will be] easy to get many customers in online and retail.”