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Pilot action on growing spirulina along the Sambre

Partner Action Number & Description

WP1 Action 3

Pilot action on growing spirulina along the Sambre


Description / Nature of Pilot

This pilot action consists of evaluating the economic and commercial feasibility of producing a freshwater alga called spirulina cultivated in greenhouses on a surface area of one hectare, near the banks of the river Sambre.


Pilot Framework / Timescale

The pilot action stems from a political will on the part of local elected officials in the Maubeuge Val de Sambre area to reinvest the river and the land along its banks as a driver of new economic development.

The river Sambre was the source of the industrial boom in the Maubeuge area in the 20th century (1900 – 1970). The economic restructuration of the area, underway since the 1980s, has led to the river being left behind in favour of other priority development areas.

Today, local politicians and stakeholders in Maubeuge want to shift focus back onto using the waterway as a major factor of new development and allow the local population to reclaim this “blue space”, neglected for over 40 years.


Funding / Budget

The cost of this pilot action is estimated at € 280,600 which represents mostly the cost of studies, divided into technical lots:

-    Economic feasibility study;

-    Soil and land study;

-    Energy performance study;

-    Project management assistance;

-    Legal and technical assistance.

This amount is co-financed by a European subsidy under the Interreg IVB programme as part of the project Green & Blue Futures.


Technical or Engineering Assessments / Issues

The economic and commercial study is finished and its conclusions attest without any doubt to the significant economic potential that producing and selling spirulina represents. This freshwater alga is a high quality dietary supplement, the most complete food on the planet, after a mother’s milk. This nutrient has its place in a trend set to continue for decades to come, that of healthy and clean eating.

Nevertheless, in France, production and consumption of spirulina is still too empirical and confidential. It is therefore necessary to build a new production unit, based on the principle of regional industry and to work towards massifying the product, through a new marketing approach.

It is also important to emphasise that the spirulina production process cannot be mechanised and must rely on a workforce. This activity could create around 50 direct jobs, whose descriptions perfectly fit reintegration and professional qualifications.


Pilot Outputs / Outcomes

The economic study was presented in front of a small committee on the 21st October 2014 in Maubeuge in the presence of the president of the urban agglomeration of Maubeuge and the management of the public interest group Succeed in Sambre Avesnois.

Following the presentation, the management requested additional technical details allowing, in particular, productions costs and sales methods to be refined.


Constraints / Requirements

The economic feasibility study took longer than originally foreseen (+6 months) owing to difficulties in meeting with spirulina producers in France.

The market for spirulina production is and remains a confidential market where current producers are seeking to preserve their economic niche and sales networks.

Today, what must be done is to pinpoint an important budget line for future projections of a spirulina production unit: heating the greenhouses. Indeed, it is necessary to heat the volume of the greenhouses (over a surface area of 10,000 m2) to an average temperature of 30° during the growth cycle of the spirulina (12 hours per day, 270 days of the year).


Pilot Stakeholders

The local partners involved in carrying out the study are:

-    The French federation of spirulina growers;

-    The Nord-Pas de Calais regional chamber of agriculture;

-    Greenhouse suppliers;

-    Technicians from the public interest group Succeed in Sambre Avesnois.


Recommended Design Delivery


Pilot Delivery Strategy

To carry out this pilot action, the management of Succeed in Sambre Avesnois launched a competitive call for tenders.

This invitation to tender was made up of the following lots:

-    Economic and feasibility study;

-    Soil and land analysis study;

-    Energy optimisation study;

-    Project management assistance;

-    Legal and technical assistance.


Risks & Opportunities (additional to Green & Blue Futures outputs)

As mentioned above, the presentation of the study to a small committee led to a request for further details. These details were provided, given to Succeed in Sambre Avesnois on the 25th November 2014.

The general management of the public interest group must now compose a steering group and organise a meeting for an in-depth presentation of the economic study. It is following this steering group meeting that Succeed in Sambre Avesnois and the agglomeration will make the decision to look for and involve a private investor to begin to create a spirulina production site along the banks of the river Sambre.


Future Cost Implications / Maintenance Requirements

If, following the steering group meeting, the public interest group and the agglomeration of Maubeuge make the decision to begin the creation of a production site, it will be necessary to determine the type of cooperation between the future private investor and the local government to deal with the following investments:

-    Purchase of the land where the production site will stand;

-    Purchase of the greenhouses to be installed over a surface area of 10,000 m2;

-    Construction of the building to house the activities related to the production (drying warehouse, packaging line, machine room etc.).