Our project objective is to develop methodologies for replacing prickly pear skins. The new peel has to keep all physiological characteristics of the fruit, maintaining unaltered every organoleptic, microbiological and nutritional physiognomies. As a complementary task, new packages for boosting all previous qualities are trying to be adapted.
Every single progress is made keeping in mind that prickly pears are highly susceptible to microbiological alteration because of its high pH and water content.
In a national context, the project is expected to benefit Central Chile pear growers. They expect to insert their products in sophisticated markets which privilege fresh product consumption.
University of Santiago, Chile - ChileLead applicant
Technological Development Society, Chile - ChileInitiative partner
Agricultural Innovation Foundation, Agricultural Ministry, Chile - ChileInitiative partner
modifying prickly pear skins, MAINTAINING unaltered every organoleptic, microbiological and nutritional PHYSIOGNOMIES can help the fruit to be highly ACCESSIBLE as a easier, healthier alternative, encouraging its consumption.
Our main innovation is on the social level. Prickly Pears are very uncommon in people's diets due to its peeling difficulty. This is extremely important considering how people develop bad eating habits in a society always running against time. Being able to make any kind of nutritious element more accessible to population contributes to expand variety oriented to healthy horizons and change eating behaviors among others.
Our project is being developed in Central Chile. According to United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization, nearly three of each 10 Chileans is obese. This number means nothing by itself, but compared with United States of America (31.8%) and Mexico (33.3%), it shows how critical obesity is for Chilean culture.
Also, as developers, it is known that inventing a new methodogoly has to be 100% trustworthy for the final consumer. Especially when the whole harvesting chain is considered. In this environment against the odds, the project is born with the idea of helping a community of growers to position their star product into a hard Chilean Market.
Some of the most relevant results perceived:
- Improving Prickly Pear's life cycle by replacing its peel for an eatable cover. This is measured by its respiration rate.
- Keeping product's qualities.
- Lowering microbiological contamination by using custom methodology.
- Increasing the product's life cycle from 10-12 days to 30-35 days.
This project was originally requested by a group of growers from a rural zone called Til Til. This place is traditionally known for its prickly pears production. There, around three hundred (300) farmers live, and near that area another fifteen hundred (1500) grower families can be found depending on this product. For this reason, the main benefit of the project will go to them, offering to use all built knowledge as a Cooperative or some kind of group association.
Due to the project schedule, scaling to industrial applications has not been made. Experimental procedures have been executed by academics and growers. People from Til Til have participated during results presentations and they have shown interest in being part of investigations made by University of Santiago. Our research team has been involved in developing new methodologies implemented by experts in microbiology, food industry processes and market specialists. University of Santiago and Agricultural Innovation Foundation from the Agricultural Ministry of Chile have raised funds for project's development.
The biggest problem until now was microbiological. Prickly Pears have normal a high concentration of microbia due to the contact between the skin and soil. At first, funguses and bacteria were developed on the surface, shortening the fruit's life cycle.
Those situations were overcome by designing strict protocols for sterelizing and desinfecting before peeling prickly pears. These included equipment and tools used. The result of all those measures were doubling prickly pear's life cycle up to 4 weeks.
Prickly Pears need growing fields agriculturally labeled as low productive, where fresh water supply is scarce. Using these type of soils lowers their erosion effects and desertification of the land thanks to the organic waste material from harvesting. Thus, non-agricultural land fields can be recovered and transformed into good land for agro industrial processes.
As the project is not over yet, this item is very hard to distinguish. This innovation is the starting point to revalorize Prickly Pears. Opening new business opportunities, positioning itself as an alternative for domestic consumption are part of the expected long lasting results.
Furthermore, this project is expected to be the first of an investigation line for implementing new industrial processes for reutilizing subproducts and waste material.
To disseminate our results and achievements, these actions wwere taken, among others:
- Growers from all the country were contacted to inform them about our investigation
- Invitations to visit our labs at University of Santiago were given to growers for embracing them our core ideas.
- Direct contact with retail companies were made.
- Bachelor's thesis were linked to our project for involving new blood into the methology.