InnoFoodAfrica presence at the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) 25th Biennial Congress.

Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre | Date: 28th to 30th August 2023

The InnoFoodAfrica project was present in the SAAFoST 25th Biennial Congress as a silver sponsor, exhibitor and had number of researchers and students who were presenting the research work done by the project under the theme African plant-based foods for food and nutritional security – InnoFoodAfrica update.

Plenary Address: Natalia Rosa-Sibakov & Ndegwa Henry Maina

Dr Natalia Rosa-Sibakov and Ndegwa Henry Maina opened the InnoFoodAfrica presentations during a plenary session titled “Opportunities and challenges of plant-based foods from African crops for food and nutrition security – InnoFoodAfrica”. Dr Natalia Rosa-Sibakov is a senior scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Dr Maina is an associate professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland. In this joint presentation Dr Maina and Dr Sibakov introduced the InnoFoodAfrica project to the congress, its concept and approach. They introduced the crops under focus in the InnoFoodAfrica project, which are Bambara groundnut, cowpea, faba bean, orange flesh sweet potatoes, banana, finger millet, sorghum, amaranth and teff. They presented innovative food products produced by research scientists and students involved in the InnoFoodAfrica projects, such as high fibre gluten free crackers, extruded sorghum snacks, protein, fibre and beta-carotene rich snacks, quick cooking sorghum rice, nutritious porridge for children, fibre and protein rich pasta, healthy snacks for children and quick cooking Bambara rice. They also highlighted the importance of good farming practices of these crops in order to improve productivity and yield and the work the project did with the farmers. The take away message was “do research with farmers, not the farmers’ which was demonstrated by the project in involving the farmers in the production of these crops.

Nomzamo Magano

The presentations under the InnoFoodAfrica session were kick started by PhD Food Science student Nomzamo Magano from the University of Pretoria. Her presentation was titled “What Drives Food Choices Amongst Low, Middle and High Income People in Urban South Africa”. In her presentation she highlighted that there are different drivers of food choices amongst different demographics in South Africa. In her work she highlighted that sensory appeal, health and food safety were important to all different income groups. When it comes to concern for ethics and the environment; high income cared more about the environment, middle income cared more about employment equity of the shops they buy from and low income expressed little to no concern for either, although they often reused their food packaging and were the least likely to waste food. Her work highlighted the opportunities and limitations for improved food choice strategies that may support public health and the planet. Her work forms part of Work Package 1 of the InnoFoodAfrica project.

Daddy Kgonothi

The second presentation was given by Daddy Kgonothi, also a PhD Food Science student from the University of Pretoria. The title of his presentation was “The Application of Dehydration Technologies on Drying Kinetics and Physicochemical Properties of Orange-fleshed Sweet Potato”. Orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) is a provitamin A that can help address vitamin A deficiency in Africa. Unfortunately, OFSP is perishable as it has high moisture and needs to be dried to produce shelf-stable food. However, during drying the beta-carotene and vitamin C decreases. Mr Daddy Kgonothi demonstrated that the combination of infrared and microwave as drying methods were the fastest and showed the highest retention of beta-carotene compared to other drying methods, such as sun drying and conventional oven drying. His work forms part of work package 4 of the InnoFoodAfrica Project.

Dr Natalia Rosa-Sibakov

Dr Natalia Rosa-Sibakov is a Senior Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. She received a PhD degree from the University of Montpellier 2 (Montpellier, France) in 2013. Her presentation was titled “Manufacturing and Potential of High Protein Plant-Based Ingredients from African Crops”. In her work she aimed to develop protein-rich ingredients by dry fractionation for potential use as meat analogue produced by high moisture extrusion. In the work they reported that air fractionation resulted in protein rich ingredients which had good techno-functional properties. However, the cowpea and Bambara groundnut fractions did not form fibrous structure resembling meat. Addition of 25 % gluten protein to the cowpea and Bambara groundnut fractions enabled the formation of fibrous structures. This work formed part of work package 4 of the InnoFoodAfrica Project.

Dr Ndegwa Maina and Dr Habtu Abraha

The final presentations before lunch were jointly given by Dr Ndegwa Maina and Dr Habtu Abraha. Dr Maina is an associate professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland and Dr Abraha is the upstream research manager Africa for Puratos. The presentation was titled “Potential of Indigenous African Grains to Replace Wheat in Bakery Applications”. In their presentation they explored the use of indigenous African grains, such as teff, millets and sorghum in bread making. They demonstrated that up to 50 % of wheat can be replaced by African grains in bread making resulting in breads with high proteins and fibres. However, the volume of the bread was smaller compared to wheat bread. They concluded the presentation with an important question, should we really mimic wheat bread in terms of volume, or should we redefine what bread in order to incorporate indigenous African crops? Their work formed part of work package 4 of the InnoFoodAfrica Project.

Pauline Pinel

The first presentation after lunch was given by Pauline Pinel, a PhD student at the Institut Agro Montpellier in France. Her presentation was titled “Nutritional Optimization, Starch and Protein Digestibility of Pasta Made with Gluten Free African Cereal and Legume Flours” In her research she investigated different formulations of cowpea flour, cowpea with amaranth leaf, cowpea with teff flour and cowpea combined with both teff and amaranth leaf to produce gluten-free pasta that can serve as an alternative to wheat pasta. In their work, they demonstrated that low temperature extrusion can be used to produce gluten-free pasta from cowpea with amaranth and teff. The cowpea-based pasta had a lower optimal cooking time with higher cooking losses compared to wheat pasta. In addition, cowpea-based pasta had lower rapidly digestible starch than wheat pasta. Her work formed part of work package 4 of the InnoFoodAfrica Project.

Mondli Masanabo

The second presentation after lunch was given by Mondli Masanabo, a PhD Food Science student at the University of Pretoria. His presentation was titled “Properties of Bio-Composite Packaging Materials Developed Using Cowpea Lignocellulosic Sidestream as a Filler”. In this presentation he demonstrated that agricultural waste from an indigenous African crop, cowpea, can be used to produce biodegradable packaging material for potential replacement of petroleum-based non-biodegradable plastics. Injection moulded bio-composite plastics and bio-composite films were produced for rigid and flexible packaging respectively. The work demonstrated that the addition of cowpea sidestream/waste to biopolymers improved the properties of the bio-composite plastics. In this work, they demonstrated value addition of locally available cowpea waste by production of bio-composite plastics for the potential replacement of petroleum-based non-biodegradable plastics in some applications. This work formed part of the work package 5 of the InnoFoodAfrica project.

Dr Trond Løvdal

Dr. Trond Løvdal is a researcher and project leader at Nofima, Department for Processing Technology. His presentation was titled “Canned Complementary Porridges Based on African Indigenous Crops; Nutritious, Affordable, and Convenient Food for Infants”. The aim of the work was to develop canned complementary infant porridges based on African indigenous crops, such as orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), cowpea, Bambara groundnut, teff, maize, finger millet (FM), and amaranth, in an industrial pilot scale focusing on Protein/Energy content, oral processing, sensory, and affordability. This presentation demonstrated that these canned complementary porridges are rich in protein and energy, approaching the recommended limits set by WHO for fortified complementary foods for infants with satisfactory sensory properties.

Prof Shakila Dada

The last presentation under the InnoFoodAfrica session was presented by Prof Shakila Dada, a Director of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC). Her presentation was titled “Using Communication Strategies for Food Science, Food Security and Nutrition”. This presentation demonstrated the potential use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to disseminate food science, food security and nutrition information to individuals with temporary limitations to their communication abilities or who may have communication vulnerabilities. In this work the reading materials in food science, food security and nutrition were translated into different South African languages and the reading materials were reduced English grade 4 levels. In this presentation it was demonstrated that Augmentative and Alternative communication can significantly contribute to facilitating communication and knowledge dissemination of information for individuals with low literacy, which is essential for sustainable development and empowerment. This work formed part the InnoFoodAfrica project.

Dr Janne Keränen

The last parallel session on Wednesday, 30th of August was given by Dr Janne Keränen, a senior research scientist from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. He is currently the work package leader in the InnoFood Africa project. His presentation was titled “Agricultural Sidestream as a Biomaterial Commodity: Opportunities and Challenges”.  In this work he presented on the opportunities of the use of low-value agricultural biomass waste from African crops, such as faba bean, sorghum, cowpea and finger millet in the production of high-value bio-based and biodegradable packaging. This work demonstrated that these sidestream can be used as a filler in biopolymer matric to produce fully biodegradable bio-composites that can serve as alternatives to some fossil fuel-based and non-biodegradable plastics. These bio-composite plastics can be produced using already existing polymer processing equipment, such as twin-screw extrusion, extrusion film casting and injection moulding.  He concluded by highlighting the benefit of using locally available agricultural waste in bio-packaging, value addition of this waste can potentially create new value chain systems and create new revenues of income for local farmers. This work forms part of work packaging 5, to which Dr Keränen is the work package leader.

Poster presentations

Many students in the InnoFood Africa project had poster to present in the SAAFoST congress. One of our own student, Rose Otema Baar, a PhD Food Science student was a runner up in the Ginsburg award for the best poster presentation.

SAAFOST Exhibition

At the congress, InnofoodAfrica joined had with DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in food security to exhibit and showcase the research work and food prototype. The exhibition booth received a lot of visits from the delegates of the SAAFoST congress who showed interest in the work. The researchers who presented at the congress under the InnoFoodAfrica session received a lot of engagements from the delegates of the congress. This cements the impact and the importance of the work done under the InnoFoodAfrica project in promoting the use of climate smart indigenous Africa grains.



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