A prospective from above the area of cultivation shows the prevalence of the distinctive blue colour of the superfood.
A sustainable diet for the environment and the future populations.
In the course of history diet has undergone constant change. Depending on the places where civilisations were born, the climatic conditions, the rhythms of life and work of those populations over time, the degree of development of technology and innovation in the production of different foods.
There were times where man had to adapt himself. So, the human body has been able to react to the scarcity of resources, managing to get the right nourishments from a few foods present on the territory, optimising them. Each epoch had its rhythms, various and heterogeneous food cut to measure, but feeding was, over time, also a cultural and economic question. This is still the case today, as evidenced by the differences between the western and eastern part of the Planet. The habits of the economically more developed countries are linked to the abundance and wealth of resources. However, there are geographic areas where the malnutrition, poverty and food shortages represent a plague on the agenda. This is in synthesis the dark picture delineated by FAO: 124 million people in the world find themselves in a severe food insecurity, due to wars, economic and social disruption, environmental disasters and consequences linked to climate change. In other words, a portion of the population doesn’t have enough food and is not able to get it for their families.
To the food innovation.
Science and technology have the task of providing solutions to the problems raised by society, setting in motion the machine of technological transfer, in favour of the growth of a territory.
It is to science that society and politics rely on trying to find new solutions to answer questions never or only partially resolved, such as the food emergency. From decades FAO and UN are interrogating themselves on the causes of the extreme poverty in some areas of the world. It is because of the wars, the politic and economic crisis, the environmental change, the rising of temperatures, the anthropic intervention that some areas of the world became inhospitable.
Talking about the causes, however, doesn’t mean stopping at their consideration. It is necessary to design solutions, design possible and realistic scenarios for an inversion of route, for an improvement of the fate of the populations harassed by calamities.
Science and technology give an answer. They are inspired by the ancient practices, driven by tradition and implemented using the current technologic progress. The result is an upgrading of the resources and a major equity in their distribution. To allow it are the advanced technologies, such as the photobioreactors used in the production of superfoods – microalgae but not only – elected as the food of the future by both the FAO and the UN.
So, how can science and technology help to create innovation mostly in the food field in contexts where the resources are scarce and limited?
From the Aztec cultivation to the photobioreactors: how the production processes of spirulina algae changed.
Are spirulina algae the food of the future? At this moment is safe to say that it is not going to replace it but it will become part of the diets diffused in different geographic areas of the world as a supplement, for its multi-nutritional properties. Today we know more specifically about their biochemical properties. Spirulina algae has a high protein content, is rich in beta-carotene, vitamins – among which stands out the B12 – minerals among which iron and brass and many enzymes. But the blue algae have, also, antibiotic properties and scientific studies attested its antiviral action.
The Aztecs and Mayans knew its great value and healing effect too. For them it was the food of the gods and its uses were many. Once, it was cultivated on the outside in proximity of alkaline fresh waters, well-lit and at high temperatures. This kind of cultivation persists today in some areas of the world, like central America and Africa.
But together with the more traditional practices, today there are new ones added, cutting edge, innovative technological methods that use the potential of photobioreactors. In Sardinia has been developed on a trial basis a cultivation system inside the mine of Carbosulcis that uses geothermal energy to guarantee a constant temperature of water during the whole year. These systems are optimal for the growth of microorganisms such as microalgae, today widely used not only in the western healthy food but, mostly, in the one of developing countries, precisely as declared by FAO.
Precise responsibilities: act against hunger, educate for saving.
The events of Bruno and Lorenzo show some scenarios of a prostrated society, reduced to the difficult self-sufficiency in a world lacking in most of its resources, above all in consequence of climate change. Grandfather and nephew are forced to adapt. They teach themselves and they attempt to derive the obtainable from what is present. Spirulina, the algae that they sell is the product that derives from the art to get by with what we have. The story tells a fantasy scenery, but it is able to highlight the importance of some practices: the saving, the re-use of resources, the parsimony in their exploitation, the environmental sustainability, the environmental protection. In the story it is very clear: the resources are not endless and everything we use has a cost in terms of water, solar and energy resources. Being aware of the cost of every action, of its consequences, of the impact that the production of the food that we eat has on the health of the environment is the first step towards change. The use and not the waste then, because the life of the future generations can be led with justice and equity for everybody.
Discover more about The Shifters
Maria Chiara Di Guardo – pro-rector for innovation and territory, Micaela Morelli – pro-rector for research and Roberta Vanni – Director of CESAR tell the dynamics that have led to the realisation of a crossmedial project about the third mission of University of Cagliari.
Watch the project’s trailer
There’s always something fascinating behind change. An obstacle course that talks about our future. Telling the world is our mission.
Telling the research: out mission.