15 Nov 2008

Biotech options for value addition of farm produce

Vanilla from pomegranate? A reality, says Dr Christopher Augur, senior scientist with the Institute of Research and Development, University of Paul Cezanne in Marseille, France. The scientist was delivering a talk on ‘Microbes and their enzymes: transforming specific agro-industrial waste’ at the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment Hall.

It was the first of a series of lectures on biotechnology organised by the Kerala State Biotechnology Commission. ‘’We can get some very interesting compounds by the microbial degradation of agro-industrial waste. Some of the most promising ones are vanillin from pomegranate fruit peel and taxifolin from coffee waste,’’ said Dr Augur.

While agro-industrial waste like the coffee seed waste cannot be used as animal feed because of their high tannin content, they can be used to generate much useful compounds, he said. ‘’Degradation of these waste materials using fungus can generate some very interesting compounds that are important in biotechnology. Generating taxifolin this way can also be a blessing to the trees, which otherwise are damaged due to the peeling of the bark’’ he said.

In addition to being eco-friendly, these solutions can be very cheap too. In the case of vanilla derived from pomegranate peel, the cost of the end-product can be brought down significantly, he said. In a discussion thereafter, Dr ugur said that the acceptability of such microbe-derived vanillin should not be a problem as it is ‘naturally bio-transformed’ and not synthetic.

Dr Augur also went on to explain in detail the process by which coffee waste can be preserved for months even after the coffee season. This and the technology for making taxifolin, if it can be produced in a cost-effective manner, can become a boon to the coffee-farmers of the State too.


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