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dez 06, 2017
Food and Beverages

Brazilian scientists make your wine more environmentally friendly

Agricultural waste by-products have proved an increasing challenge to agribusiness as the industrial scale began to grow. Brazilian researchers, however, might have a potential solution, using by-products from agriculture to help with the creation of other food and cosmetic products. Researchers used grapes cultivation as the basis for their research – meaning that your evening glass of wine could soon be part of a sustainable production chain.

Professor Severino Matias de Alencar, from Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture’s (ESALQ) agro-industry, food and nutrition center, had been aware of the waste generated by agroindustry for some time. Things like bark, seeds and vines are often discarded in the cultivation process, as well as untreated waste from raw material processing creating the potential for contaminating water and soil.

In response, researcher Alencar set up a research group to look for “alternatives to the main waste generated in the food agroindustry”. Speaking to Canal Rural, the professor explained: “Our group studies and seeks to provide alternatives for the reuse of agro-industrial waste. We work hard with the identification and vocation of bioactive molecules for their reintegration into the agrifood chain.”

The research group started with grapes, thanks to their high antioxidant content. With ever-increasing demands for antioxidants in everything from processed foods to cosmetics, researchers felt that grapes would be a good example to begin with. Additionally, grapes are produced in large quantities in Brazil; the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) expects a harvest of 1.3 billion tonnes this year. And winemaking by-products like stalks, vines, seeds and barks can represent up to 30 percent of grapes harvested for winemaking.

These grape by-products, though, are exceptionally high in nutritional properties. This is because grapes themselves have biological properties that allow them to deliver anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory benefits to those who eat them, among others. And instead of allowing a potential 390,000 tonnes of potentially beneficial by-products to be discarded without treatment, Alencar and his colleagues embarked on their research to prove how these by-products could be used more helpfully.

Professor Pedro Luiz Rosalen, a collaborating coordinator for the research, believes that it could have a serious impact on the industry. “We work with antioxidants because it is one of the most-used substances in the food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, hygiene and chemical industries today,” he said. But between Rosalen and Alencar’s teams, the pair have managed to figure out how these by-products can be more productively used.

“Studies have shown that these by-products can be sources of natural antioxidants, especially because they contain phenolic compounds,” said Alencar. “As sources of antioxidants, these materials can be reused as substitutes for additives or new ingredients in the food and pharmaceutical industries.”

Researchers say that this is the first time the antioxidant potential of grapes grown in semi-arid regions has been used. The results are promising so far – meaning that you might be able to have sustainable wine on your dinner table pretty soon, courtesy of the creativity of Brazil’s researchers.