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Engineer puts up high-tech Spirulina farm

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By Zac B. Sarian

For 24 years, he was a well respected civil engineer who was busy constructing gas stations, not just one but sometimes two or three at a time, for a major gasoline company. The financial reward was very good, but the business proved to be too stressful that exacted a heavy toll on his physical well-being.

In 2003, when he was just 50 years old, Engr. Napoleon Puente, really felt so physically weak. He did not really know what hit him but he now surmises that it must have been the hectic schedule of meeting deadlines and his exposure to toxic substances like fumes that debilitated him.

  • HE FOUND SPIRULINA VERY GOOD FOR HIS HEALTH – Engr. Napoleon ‘Pol’ Puente had a highly rewarding construction business for about 24 years but the stress was so taxing, he became physically weak. His search for a solution to his health problem ended up in his putting up a modern spirulina farm which has become a promising business enterprise. More and more people are discovering the health benefits of taking spirulina which the FAO has described as the most complete food in the world. Spirulina is a blue-green alga that contains as much as 72 per cent protein.

  • HARVESTED SPIRULINA DRIED IN THE SUN – After harvesting the algae, the same are dried inside a screened solar dryer. In two hours, the moist algae will be totally dry under the sun and would be ready for granulating for making capsules or granules in sachets. Aztec Spirulina is pure because it is grown in tanks under transparent plastic roofing, unlike other spirulina products that are grown in ponds outdoors. Aztec Apirulina does not have any binders so it is really pure.

  • IN CHARGE OF MARKETING – Patricia Puente-Suanino is the daughter of the founder who is in charge of marketing. Here, she is showing bottled spirulina capsules and sachet containing granules. Spirulina is for all ages – for the very young as well as senior citizens. The young grandchildren of Pol take granules as if they are taking candies. And they are very healthy and active.

  • CONCRETE PONDS UNDER TRANSPARENT ROOF – Photo shows a view of the concrete ponds under plastic roofing used for growing the blue-green spirulina alga. It is unlike most growing ponds abroad which are open ponds outdoors. Because Aztec spirulina is grown indoors, it is very pure.

  • IT’S A FAMILY BUSINESS – Every member of the Puente family is involved in operating the Aztec Spirulina Farm. From left: Patricia Puente-Suanino, daughter who is in charge of marketing; wife Valerie is in charge of lectures and workshops; Pol, the chairman; and Edrian, the elder son is in charge of production. A younger broter helps in the office.

  • LECTURING AT THE AGRI-KAPIHAN – Valerie Puente, wife of the founder who is a nurse, is very proficient in conducting lectures before groups like attendees of the Agri-Kapihan and other occasions. She also takes part in radio interviews where she explains the many health benefits of spirulina. In photo she is lecturing in one of the monthly sessions of the Agri-Kapihan at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City. During a recent trip to the United States, she reported that the senior citizens she visited were all very interested in Aztec Spirulina. She ran out of stock in no time at all.

    He submitted himself to stem cell procedure but this did not seem to make him stronger. Fortunately, a nephew who was an executive of a multinational company in Colombia sent samples of spirulina for him to take. It did not take long for him to discover that the spirulina, the blue-green alga which is considered the most complete food in the world, worked wonders for him.

    RESEARCH IN INTERNET – Engr. Pol, that’s what many friends call him, became curious and researched about the wonder food in the Internet. And that’s how he got acquainted with Jean Paul Jourdan, a Frenchman who produced high quality spirulina in small scale. Mr. Jourdan also published a guide on how to grow spirulina.

    Pol found Jourdan’s guide easy to follow so he immediately started culturing spirulina in a small way. For a start, he used one-square meter wooden boxes lined with plastic, using a strain from South America that his nephew, Ferdinand Puente, sent him. Later, he also acquired a strain from Italy and another from UP Los Baños.

    FIVE GRAMS PER SQ.M. – Pol had wanted to find out how much spirulina in a one-square-meter cubicle can be produced in one day. He soon found out that one cubicle can produce five grams of dried spirulina in one day.  He then started doing his math and was convinced that he can grow spirulina not just for his own consumption but as a business that will make it possible for other people to partake of the wonder food.

    Being an engineer who is an expert in construction, he designed his own growing ponds made of concrete, roofed with corrugated transparent plastic and walled with fine net to preclude entry of insects and other foreign matters. He built his high-tech farm in a lot not far from where he lives in a subdivision in Cainta, Rizal.

    NOT SIMPLE MATTER – He confesses that it is not a simple matter to grow the blue-green alga. It is sensitive to changes in temperature, the pH in the water for growing the alga, available oxygen in the growing pond (so paddle wheels are needed), and other considerations.

    All the requirements that are needed to succeed in growing the alga have been studied by Pol, and so successful is he that even the researchers from UP Los Baños and La Salle University, have admired his success in producing spirulina. In fact, Dr. Joel Cuello, an expert in growing algae for large scale production from the University of Arizona’s Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering, has been impressed by the Aztec Spirulina Farm.

    VERY HYGIENIC GROWING AREA – Dr. Cuello said that the production area is very hygienic and that the spirulina produced is very pure. It is unlike in other countries where spirulina is grown in open ponds outdoors. He considers Astec’s operation as really green and sustainable. The natural product that the company is producing is really of high value and quality. An analysis by a reputable laboratory has found Aztec Spirulina to contain 72 percent protein. It is higher by two percentage points than that of a leading counterpart from Australia.

    Aztec Spirulina comes in capsules as well as in granule form. Both don’t have any binders. Two other products are Spirulina soap and 5-in-One Spirulina coffee with mangosteen extract. Pol observes that some spirulina products in the market come in tablet form. These are not pure spirulina because a binder is needed to produce the tablets.

    FAMILY BUSINESS – What is interesting about Aztec Spirulina as a business is that members of the whole family are involved in the production cycle. While Pol remains the overall head, his son Edrian is now taking charge of production. His daughter Pat is in charge of marketing. On the other hand, his wife Valerie who is a nurse, is busy conducting lectures and seminars on the beneficial health effects of spirulina. Another son also helps in the office. By the way, Pol Puente can be reached at 0917-937-7947 for further information.

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