Danish enzyme company Novozymes claimed this week that research into local crops in Brazil as a source of inexpensive and nutritious food is part of a cooperation agreement between Novozymes Latin America and Tecpar, the institute of technology for the state of Parana in Brazil.
Victor Barbosa, president of Novozymes Latin America, signed an agreement with Tecpar, the Instituto de Technologia do Parana, in June 2001. The first part of the agreement involves using more local raw materials in Novozymes' enzyme production. The company maintains that progress has already been made in lab trials at Tecpar and full-scale fermentation trials are planned at Novozymes. One of the priorities, in order to improve sustainability and reduce costs, is to replace imported potato protein with local sources of protein.
The second part of the agreement concerns the development of new enzyme applications to enhance the use of local agricultural resources. Enzymes from Novozymes could, claims the company, help to open up the biodiversity found in Brazil including local crops such as soya beans and manioc (also called cassava).
"We are studying all the protein alternatives that can be derived from soya by enzymatic hydrolysis," said Victor Barbosa. "There is a lot of demand for protein derivatives from soya," he continued.
In the longer term, Novozymes Latin America is aiming to be able to convert Brazilian soya beans into nutritious milk. Normal soya milk has a bitter, beany taste butm the company adds, selected compounds can work to degrade the enzymes that cause bitter flavours.
Another project in the co-operation concerns the use of manioc for flour. Manioc is a tuberous plant that grows well in Brazil and throughout the tropics. In March 2002, the Brazilian National Congress passed a law that bread must contain at least 20 per cent manioc flour and pizza bases should contain 40 per cent - a way of substituting expensive imported wheat with a local crop.
Victor Barbosa believes that the greater use of manioc will open up new applications for enzymes. "We will do whatever we can to make a better bread product from manioc flour with a high nutritional value," he commented. Talks began in March with Tecpar to discuss how the two partners could cooperate on a manioc baking project. "All the people involved are very motivated," said Victor Barbosa. "The basic idea of our agreement is to share our knowledge and find more ways to use local crops in the state of Paran . Whatever is done here is often a catalyst for change in other states," he added.