Spirulina being weighed and readied to fall down the chute and into the packaging machine. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Brunei’s first spirulina producer Tavelmout Biofarm (TVBM) has begun operating its factory at the Bio-Innovation Corridor Industrial Park in Kg Tungku, which is capable of producing 1,000 tonnes of frozen raw Spirulina per year.

TVBM who invested $21 million to establish a footprint in Brunei is a local subsidiary of Japanese biotech company Taberumo Corp and is a pioneer in the large-scale cultivation of Spirulina using PhotoBioReactor (PBR) in the world.

Managing Director and Factory Director Satoshi Suzuka said that the decision to set up a facility in Brunei was due to the country’s strategic location whereby it provides TVBM easy access to Asian markets including the ASEAN region.

Managing Director and Factory Director Satoshi Suzuka. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“Besides the ease of doing business, Brunei has abundant sunlight and there is little fluctuation in temperature throughout the year (which) is suitable to cultivate spirulina,” he said in an interview with The Bruneian.

Spirulina is a cyanobacteria or Algae that has been classified and recognised as a superfood by the United Nations (UN) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) due to its high nutritional content.

As a complete plant-based protein, 65 to 70 percent of Spirulina’s dry weight is actually protein, and as a result it is often used as a dietary supplement.

Tabérumo spirulina. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

TVMB’s flagship product, the ice flaked Spirulina Taberumo is the first of its kind in the world, as the current market is dominated by dried Spirulina often processed into tablets and powder.

These dried Spirulina products involve heat-treatment which according to Suzuka causes “the break down and degradation of nutritional content resulting in a pungent taste and smell”.

He added that the Taberumo Spirulina sets itself apart from its competitors by being tasteless, odourless and pure, thanks to their proprietary freezing technologies.

Chong Pei Ying, Lead for Quality Control doing regular Quality Control Tests to ensure Tabérumo product satisfies Japanese rigorous and stringent food safety standards. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“We are able to eliminate the use of heat treatment and instead lock the (spirulina’s) freshness thus, preserving its cellular and nutritional value.”

TVMB Spirulina contains 1.4 times more pigments, more unsaturated fatty acids and minerals than those in tablets and powder.

With the $21 million injected from the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) – a Japanese government fund – and Mitsubishi Corporation, the local subsidiary wants to use its new facility to help the sultanate diversify the post oil and gas economy and meet Wawasan Brunei 2035.

For its first year of operation, TVMB is targeting to produce six tonnes of ice flaked spirulina per month, setting its sights on increasing its production capacity within the next three years to reach a maximum production volume of 75 tonnes per month or a thousand tonnes per year.

Aiming for Japan as its first main target market, Suzuka added that the eventual goal is for Taberumo to be exported globally.

“We also wish to tap into the booming global halal market after the approval of our halal certification from Brunei”.

Currently, there is no halal certified raw Spirulina available in the world, therefore with the certification of Taberumo Spirulina in Brunei, Suzuka said that it would not only add value to the product, but also increases the portfolio of high-quality halal products produced locally in the sultanate.

Cultivation Lead and Team Member, Mohammad Fahim bin Hj Ibrahim (R) and Muhammad Zulfadhli Syafiq Bin Kandipurnama (L) performing daily maintenance on Spirulina Cultures inside the PhotoBioReactors (PBR). Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

With a team of twelve consisting of two senior management from Japan and 10 Bruneians, TVBM is keen on welcoming more experienced individuals into their ranks to help them achieve the goals and aspirations of the company’s next few phases.

Furthermore, TVMB aspires to fulfill a leadership role in filling the impending gap in the world’s protein demands and help alleviate the approaching protein crisis through the cultivation and processing of Spirulina.

“Globally, humanity’s ability to grow and produce protein is approaching its sustainable limit.

Seed Cultures of Spirulina being grown inside the lab, to be transferred to PBRs on future date. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“We feel that by 2030, there will be a global protein crisis whereby protein sources will become sparse due to a multitude of factors such as climate change”.

For more information on TVBM, members of the public can contact them at 2425188 or email their enquiries at sarah.ahmad@taberumo.jp

The newly constructed factory is set to be launched on Tuesday by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Haji Ali Apong.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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