Vitamin business proves a tonic

When people swallow vitamin pills they rarely consider how much research has gone into making each pill.

Lesley Borowitzka is concerned with nothing else.

“It is rewarding to see a scientific idea progress to a marketable product,” Dr Borowitzka said.

One of her latest ventures is overseeing the production of the blue/green algae spirulina, in partnership with her husband, a professor at Murdoch University, and Ron Brown, an investor/farmer.

The algae is being cultivated in ponds on Mr Brown’s property in Bindoon. The land is in a pristine valley, chosen for its exceptionally clean spring water and low possibility of contamination from adjoining farm properties.

Spirulina is harvested, dried and generally used in pill form – although in some countries, such as the US, it is included as an ingredient in pasta, health food drinks and a range of other foods.

The aim of the project is to determine whether overseas technology for the culture of spirulina can be improved and adapted to WA conditions.

The Department of Commerce and Trade provided financial support through its Innovation Sup-port Scheme to fund research and set up initial stages of the project.

Spirulina has been around for some thirty years but has not been produced in Australia until now.

It is marketed as ‘nature’s most concentrated superfood’ and is taken by health conscious people and athletes.

Rich in nutrients, B vitamins, minerals and enzymes, it is described as an easily digested protein containing all essential amino acids as well as beta-carotene.

“This is an exciting project,” Dr Borowitzka said. “As it stands we will be the only producers in the southern hemisphere.

“We will be cultivating the algae in the off season of our northern hemisphere counterparts. We are growing it in fresh spring water, in probably one of the cleanest environments in the world.”

Dr Borowitzka has a PhD in microbiology and is accustomed to marketing vitamins and pharmaceutical products in an extremely competitive export arena.

She manages technical marketing for Betatene, an Australian company that is the world’s largest producer of algal beta-carotene products.

Even though spirulina will not be ready for export until the end of 1999, enquiries have already been received from Russia, Korea, Europe, Japan and the US.

• This article is reproduced from a booklet, ‘Women in Business’ produced by the WA Department of Commerce and Trade.

To obtain copies, phone Sandra Daly on 9327 5576.

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