Emmanuel Manirafasha – One Health (H.F.C. Ltd.)
A Doctor of Engineering, Emmanuel Manirafasha pursued his Ph.D. on the biosynthesis of phycocyanin in Arthrospira platensis at Xiamen University and after helping increase phycocyanin content in several spirulina farms in China and working as Chief Engineer of R&D projects on algal prebiotics at Xiamen Canco Biotech Co. Ltd., among other ventures, moved back to his home country of Rwanda where he operates the country’s very first spirulina farm.
Rwanda has incredible resources… Lake Kivu has an incredible 256 cubic kilometers of dissolved carbon dioxide: the equivalent of 100 million hot air balloons worth of carbon dioxide
For starters, what hashtags best define who you are and/or your ambitions in the microalgae space?
#green economy #food #feed #spirulina #phycocyanin #duckweed #bio-fertilizer #bio-economy
What is your pitch/mission?
I want to help the African Great Lakes region embrace the green economy and make better use of algae-derived resources to promote bio-economy development in the country and beyond. The possibilities are immense, ranging from providing better nutrition to stunted children, to infusing feed with immunity-boosting properties that drive down the use of antibiotics, to plant-protecting biofertilizers. My key ambition is to help address the emergency of producing enough, safe, and healthy food for improved livelihoods of the Rwandan population and beyond.
Please tell us more about your company.
Health Food & Feed (H.F.C.) Co. Ltd. is mainly engaged in the development and application of bio-based products along three key uses: (1) products replacing antibiotics in the field of animal husbandry; (2) pollution-free biological pesticide products in the field of plant cultivation; (3) functional foods based on algal bioactive substances.
My business model is based on the motto of promoting green and organic farming for production of nutritious, safe and healthy foods, feeds, and bio-fertilizers. This approach will contribute to improvement of living conditions and income generation for smallholder farmers, particular women.
Where are you currently in your endeavour?
I am currently focused on raising awareness and am operating at a pilot scale, currently producing 100 kg of spirulina per month in Rwanda’s first spirulina farm. I lack capital so the scale-up is very gradual but I’m developing many interesting things as Rwanda has incredible resources and a good business environment.
Though our spirulina farm is located in the capital, Kigali, we are currently negotiating to get some land on the shores of Lake Kivu with access to warm, and carbon-dioxide rich water pumped in the depths of the lake. This is a geographical oddity with a pH level of 8.6 and a surface temperature of 24°C and an incredible 256 cubic kilometers of dissolved carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 100 million hot air balloons worth of carbon dioxide. The lake is being degassed to extract methane and to mitigate a risk of excess build-up that could cause an limnic eruption putting the life of 2 million people in the vicinity at risk so we’d like to make use of this to lower costs and make spirulina, as well as other algae resources available to more people and create the opportunities for industries. This approach will also promote the bio-fortification of staple crops, thus leading to availability and affordability of micronutrient-enriched foods.
How did you get involved in microalgae?
I was doing my Master’s degree in Engineering in China and started working on synthesizing antibiotics, especially Natamycin, through fermentation. This quite naturally led me to microalgae-based biosynthesis and I ended up doing my Ph.D. on phycocyanin enhancement and extraction and spending a few years helping four different production units in China improve their phycocyanin content.
How did you go around doing this?
I actually published a peer-reviewed paper in a high-impact journal on one of the key approaches I used: improving nitrogen feed strategy (through pulse feeding) and using sodium glutamate to induce higher phycocyanin synthesis. Significant improvements in the quantity produced were observed.
You mentioned microalgae’s potential in fighting against infant malnutrition.
Stunted growth is indeed very common in Sub-Saharan countries so I decided to do my part in solving this problem. I’m acting in two different ways: through direct supplementation and by enriching chicken feed to provide the children with better eggs and organic chicken meat. My research on eggs isn’t complete yet because analyses are very costly but visually the effect of duckweed-plus-astaxanthin supplementation on egg yolks is impressive and I am expecting cholesterol levels to be much lower and bio-fortified with essential nutrients including unsaturated oils.
Are there any other innovations you are working on?
There are many. I am working on differentiating spirulina batches to suit different user profiles and have recently been able to start producing batches of spirulina with no sodium chloride for people on low-salt diets such as people with hypertension for instance.
In the same line, I found that the aquatic resources are promising and renewable sources of feedstock for various sectors, I am also working with Wolffia spp. [common name, albeit incorrect: duckweed] as the protein content is on par with that of soy.
Lastly, what kind of profiles would you be most willing to get in touch with?
Financial resources are very restricted in Africa so I’m more than willing to get in touch with potential investors with an interest in the Great Lakes region who could help me scale up production for instance. I am also interested in connecting with other entrepreneurs and researchers with similar interests or who may be interested in consultancy services. Find me on LinkedIn.
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