Blue Agave – makes sustainable agave companies

How can Agave become a viable solution to deforestation of the world’s Rainforests

We tend to associate the agave succulents with the production of mezcal beverages such as tequila through distillation of fermented agave juice. However, commercial applications of its fibres or sugar have, in recent years, made their debut on the market. Mexicans, who fermented sacred drinks such as an intoxicating pulque – cooked maguey plant introduced this method to the Spanish. The indigenous cultures throughout the New World and Africa revere and recognise these plants and their drinks as central to their cultures. They are a gift of the sacred to humankind.

The Aztecs regarded their sacred pulque, the fermented juice of the agave cactus, as the “milk of the Mother,” a divine gift from the goddess Mayahuel—a gift which must not be abused. Mikal Aasved, 1988

Traditional uses of agave plants

The Tarahumara Indians of the northern Sierra Nevada cultivate the plant and make offerings of prayers to its spirit so that it can help humankind by sharing its intelligence with those who drink the sacred and healing beverage. The Indians apply the pulque as well as tincture of leaves and root to relieve arthritis, rheumatic pains and inflammation, and cramping in the stomach and intestines. The ethnobotanical literature describes the entire resourceful method of stripping and processing the plant to give many materials. The bruised leaves of agave plant form a paper paste. Their thorns make pins and needles. The agave thatch crafts roofs and cordage whilst the roots and nectar supply nutritious food and medicine. The fresh root, rich in saponins, provides the Indians with soap and shampoo, too.

To follow the tradition, thick agave syrup that we obtain by evaporating the sweet sap gives us food. Agave nectar or syrup is a healthier substitute for maple and barley malt syrups. It is more nutritious than, both natural and artificial options, including stevia or sucralose to name a few.

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It is the plant itself that enriches its sweet sap with minerals and vitamins. To add to that agave sugar is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. Interestingly, this high sweetness is similar to fructose, which has low glycaemic index. However, agave syrup is comparable to high-fructose corn syrup in terms of calories.


How sustainable agave companies utilise Agave’s attributes

Agave is a multiuse plant. We make furniture, didgeridoos, construction materials and even surfboards from the harder stalk and softer pith lends itself to making ropes. A downside is that processing of agave into commercial goods produces a lot of waste called agave bagasse. On the other hand, this bagasse has a great agronomic potential for composting and growing food hydroponically. Mexicans use it as substrate for growing agave seedlings. Agave bagasse is also an effective solution for recycling animal waste from slurries and tanneries through composting. This forms a closed loop of sustainability. In this way, one sector’s waste becomes another sector’s resource.
This is especially significant if we are talking about applying an integrated model of sustainability to all our human activities.

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Italian lettuce grows hydroponically in an Agave bagasse substrate, which recirculates nutrients that are in the bagasse back to the plants.


Agaves are our sustainable allies

These resilient succulents are plants native to desserts. Like all other cacti, they thrive with little or no irrigation. Although they grow well in arid or semi-arid environments of the Americas, their growth is markedly slow so we refer to them as “century plants.” They had also spread to hotter and drier regions of the Mediterranean and Africa where they utilise scarcity of water and nutrients with remarkable efficiency thanks to their incredible physiological (functioning), morphological (structural) and ecological (environmental interactions) adaptations. Agave produces numerous young plants, called pups from runners. The coated leaf surface prevents evaporation. Agave propagates by throwing plentiful shoots. It is the bats though which ensure the genetic diversity of the plants. Bats co-evolved with the cactus for thousands of years in symbiosis. For this to continue, the agave needs to be left to mature so that the bats can do their job.

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Agave salmiana ssp. crassispina (maguey manso) a sweet liquid, the Spanish named ‘aguamiel.’ It is collected in the pit formed after removing agave stalk.

How do we harness their resilience? 

Water-use efficiency and drought resistance are traits that agaves owe to their physiology. They utilise what’s known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). This major physiological condition influences water and carbon intake capacities of agaves. This makes them ecological significant plants. The Cambridge University study on CAM showed that “CAM is a major ecophysiological syndrome.” In practice this means that agave offers “high potential for sustainable production under climate change.” On top of that, they are heat and drought tolerant and adapt well to stressful habitats.

They also provide us with food. Nowadays, we can buy a filtered and refined sugar product which is Agave nectar or Agave syrup.

Which agaves produce sweet nectar in their sap?

  • Agave americana (a sentry plant, maguey, or American aloe) arrived in Southern Europe in the 16th century, the plant is also a source of pita fibre that makes various products.
  • Agave tequilana (blue or tequila agave) produces a popular alcoholic drink with its own classification. There cannot be tequila without agave and no agave without bats.
  • Agave salmiana ssp. crassispina (maguey manso) a sweet liquid also with Spanish name aguamiel. The makers of the drink collect the sap in a pit that forms after removing the agave stalk.

Agave plants – help us address climate change and its consequences

Despite shallow roots, agaves are clever at capturing water very easily from rain, condensation, and dew. They store it in their leaves. Having their own water tanks inside means they don’t need to compete with other crops for water.

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Agaves help fight fires in arid regions.

And they are a sort of ‘firefighter of the desert.’ For example, in fire-prone regions of California agave, together with prickly pear cactus, form a strong line of defence around neighbourhoods and orchards that fire cannot penetrate.

Going sustainable with agaves

To sum up, today we know that some agave plants grow better in the environment with high CO². One such species is Agave vilmoriniana. This is a game changer as far as nature based solutions go. Agave can help us curb steadily rising greenhouse gasses and rebalance the Earth’s climate.

Like many plant allies, agave has acquired a sacred status among several indigenous cultures as a giver of vital sustainable resources. These gifts can feed humans and animals. They provide us with ecological composite materials to make useful things. Agave can help us clean up the agricultural and industrial waste. And the plant’s by-products rebuild soils by improving the health of soil and water in a circular, permaculture design. So we can grow food in most efficient ways, both in soils and hydroponically. So not only, do we benefit from agave’s nutrition. We also gain all new green jobs and entire new sustainable sectors. We can build on these climate change solutions by establishing sustainable livelihoods in areas where resources are scarce. As we embrace this generous plant, we actively support the greening up of our economies.


Harrod Buhner, Stephen. “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers”

Johannes, Laura (October 27, 2009). “Looking at Health Claims of Agave Nectar”. The Wall Street Journal. Archived

Jamie Males, Jamie and Griffiths, Howard (2017). “Stomatal Biology of CAM Plants.” Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EA, United Kingdom ORCID ID: 0000-0001-9899-8101 (J.M.). Internet source:

Sherwood B. Idso, (1986) et alia. “Growth Response of a Succulent Plant, Agave vilmoriniana, to Elevated C02.”

Image of A.salmiana from: