Frugalising Space Solutions

SEMiLLA IPstar is part of the MELiSSA space research consortium, which provides closed loop  ecosystems for space missions. SEMiLLA in its turn tries to apply these technologies on Earth. However, resources abundant in space are not necessarily (cheaply) available on Earth. While the Delta Agrifood Business lab in Bergen op Zoom and the SEMiLLA department in the same city are doing a feasibility study for (high-tech) space applications in the building to attract people, we will be looking at how to “frugalise” them to make some technologies more generally applicable.


The Delta Agrifood Business lab, is an agrifood hub situated in Bergen op Zoom. It tries to bring innovative companies together to work smarter, more sustainably and circularly. It is an open innovation and expertise centre for business and education. A breeding ground that gathers and shares knowledge about Agrifood. The students initial assignment was to work on the energy efficiency of the building. They saw an opportunity to combine its knowledge with SEMiLLAs to try to combat a food problem in Kenya.

The spirulina farm project aims to bring cheap, protein rich products to the informal settlement of Kibera in Kenya, whilst simultaneously developing a small scale farm that is interesting for the DAB lab in Bergen op zoom. 

The next step

The student team is working on developing a first prototype of a spirulina farm right now in Curaçao to research how spirulina is best grown, how much can be harvested and how long it takes until the harvest. The spirulina will be bought from an algae farmer working in Curaçao who is connected to a spirulina farm in Rotterdam, which Marjenka, one of the team members, managed to visit. At the same time, the design of the end product is constantly evaluated and improved, so the team will end up with various designs from which to choose. 

To market the product in Kibera, the social context will be analyzed in more detail by staying in contact with people experienced in the agrifood business in Kenya and by establishing new contacts with students living in Nairobi and Kibera. To analyse the market and to make sure the product will be sold, the team will contact relevant influential people in Kibera that have the power to advertise the product successfully. Interviews with various experts will be conducted continuously, ranging from spirulina farmers in the Netherlands to researchers conducting a similar project for  MELiSSA in Congo. 

Frugal Innovation aspect and objectives

The main objectives of this project are increasing sustainability of farming in Kibera and the Netherlands (and in the future other locations) by creating a circular spirulina farm that draws its nutrient sources from wastewater, uses natural light for lighting and makes use of a built-in water filter to avoid wasting water. Spirulina is highly nutritional and functions as a healthy source of protein (70g per 100g), which could contribute to the healthy development of preschool children (6-59 months), who are the most susceptible to malnutrition in Kibera. Using space technology on earth has the advantage of being space and resource-efficient. The project frugalizes this technology by making it cheaper, less high-tech and adapted to the Kibera climate.

Project Team


  • Ralph Lindeboom
  • Radu Giurgiu
  • Peter Scheer
  • Clara Plata

Partner organizations

  • Anja Hessels
  • DAB lab

Academic Supervisor

  • Ralph Lindeboom, TU Delft

Student Research Team

  • Marjenka de Bell (International Business Administration - EUR)
  • Charlotte Buder (Governance, Economics and Development - LU)
  • Gijs Woudenberg (Industrial Design Engineering - TUD)