7 February 2017

The GreenGrowth project combines old food traditions with modern technology

This news is redirected by The Secretariat for Development Cooperation at SCIENCE from the World's Best News.

This news has been translated by the Secretariat for Development Cooperation of Science and therefore might differ from the original article in Danish.

Fermented food has recently become the fashion in Denmark but is completely normal in West Africa. A new project called GreenGrowth combines the old food traditions with modern technology. Professor Lene Jespersen from Department of Food Science leads this new project which is supported by Danish development aid. Danish businesses also take part. In the project Danish researchers work together with microbiologists from Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin to find the traditional yeast cultures and analyze their properties.

It is probably a minority of Danes who have tasted the Westafrican specialities such as 'nunu', 'mawé' or 'fura', but in countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin these fermented foods are very popular. They actually make up 40% of the ordinary diet. And perhaps the taste buds of West Africa and Denmark are not that different. Nunu is for example a kind of fresh yoghurt.

In the West African countries the production of nunu-yoghurt often still happens in traditional manner: You simply leave the milk until it starts fermenting by itself thanks to the local yeast cells.

"Vegetable produces do not have to be heat-treated before you ferment them. This is important in Africa where fuels often are hard to get - here you let the microorganisms do the job in stead. You get long-life products that do not need to be placed in a refrigerator. And perhaps you ferment surplus vegetables which reduces food waste. Fermentation is in many ways a sustainable technique," Professor Lene Jespersen at Institute of Food Science says.

In this way, the West African countries get the international rights to use their traditional fermentation in an industrial scale. This will strengthen the countries' own economies, but the yeast cells is also of interest to Danish companies. The West African yeast cells are a little differently from Danish ones. For example they have special properties, so that they can be used instead of artificial additives and genetically modified micro-organisms.