Algae microfarm by Muntinlupa teachers wins foreign prize
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — For two teachers of the Muntinlupa National High School (MNHS), algae that can be found on any wet area can be turned into something sustainable and beneficial to the people. 

MNHS teachers Regaele Olarte and Jason Albaro came up with a project that would cultivate a kind of algae called Chlorella vulgaris in a small farm that runs on machines its product to be used for various purposes.  

The Revitalized Algae Microfarm Project won the top prize in the East Asia and Pacific Global High Schools category of the Zayed Sustainability Prize last Jan. 14 at the United Arab Emirates, besting entries from Australia, New Zealand and island-nation Fiji. 

Olarte, MNHS’ Science department head, explained to The STAR last Thursday that cultivated and harvested algae can be used to produce flour as well as fuel like biodiesel and bioethanol. 

Dried algae could also be mixed with medical, food products and supplements, as Chlorella is known to be a nutrient that helps in boosting height, she said. 

Algae could help purify wastewater and reduce carbon footprint. “As we cultivate algae, they release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide at the same time,” she said. 

Harvested algae could be sold at around P3,000 per liter, Olarte said, noting the microfarm could provide livelihood for people. 

The two teachers also designed the machine to be used to grow algae, called bioreactor, that would totally rely on solar power. 

While algae are dependent on sunlight to produce, Albaro, Science teacher for Grade 12 said the bioreactor could speed up production. 

Aside from the pure-gold medal, the MNHS tandem also won cash prize worth P5 million, which is yet to be given. 

They hope to use the cash prize to develop a model of the algae microfarm at the school’s urban gardening area, with production of prototypes of bioreactors, Olarte said. 

They also plan to build a Zayed Community Hub, after the prize’s name. Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan is considered to be UAE’s founding father. 

The hub aims to gather students, parents, residents and possibly product manufacturers for them to discover what algae could do for their livelihood and manufacturing processes, said Albaro.

The city government of Muntinlupa had pledged a spot at Barangay Poblacion for the hub to be built, Albaro said, while the Philippine Business Council in Abu Dhabi had signified intent to help implement the project.

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