Bangladesh – EnerGaia announced today that it is a winner of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant – an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. EnerGaia will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Creating spirulina microentrepreneurs to solve malnutrition”. The main premise being the use of market solutions and microalgae as an effective tool to enhance nutrition and livelihoods.
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Out of thousands of applications, EnerGaia’s project is one of 34 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 21 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To receive funding, EnerGaia and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of three critical global health and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February, 2019.
EnerGaia is a social enterprise with a global footprint that is seeking to make spirulina a widely adopted source of protein and nutrition in the world. Spirulina is a microalgae, high in protein (60% compared to beef at 23%) contains all 8 essential amino acids, iron and many other micronutrients. EnerGaia aims to achieve this by producing spirulina more efficiently and cleanly with its technology and providing partners with access to this technology. Spirulina is more environmentally sustainable in comparison to traditional sources of protein. For example spirulina requires approximately 500 times less water to produce 1 kilogram of protein in comparison to beef.
EnerGaia’s project will empower hundreds of women in rural Bangladesh with the technology and skills to grow spirulina. By introducing spirulina farming, these women will gain an additional source of income and a high protein, nutrient dense food source. By participating in a 3 month part-time training program, graduates will qualify to engage in a lease-to-own program to start growing spirulina at their homes. The aim is that the proximity to home and flexible work hours will not interfere with other forms of livelihood creation and daily tasks. A portion of each weekly spirulina harvest will go towards adding nutrients to their families’ diet, another portion will go towards payment of the equipment required to grow spirulina and a third portion will be sold to EnerGaia to yield added household income. This project will thus provide both a nutrition intervention and livelihood creation for the low-income Bangladeshi women and their families.
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1400 projects in more than 65 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times per year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.
EnerGaia develops innovative technology to produce spirulina more efficiently and cleanly. Originally founded in Bangkok, Thailand, it also has operations in Bangladesh, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. The company works with a variety of partners to grow the adoption of spirulina globally.