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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Protera, the Chilean company creating proteins to extend the shelf life of food products

Bread will grow mold after 7 days, but now, thanks to an invention by two Chileans, this same bread can remain fresh for 30 days. How have they achieved this? Let us explain.

Leonardo Álvarez and Francia Navarrete are two Chilean biotechnology engineers who started Protera in 2014. This company uses artificial intelligence to create new proteins that make it possible to produce more nutritious and longer-lasting food.

The work that Protera does is based on the concept of synthetic biology. This discipline involves the designing of biological systems that do not exist in nature, creating new organisms that can help solve real problems.

One of the greatest challenges today is how to feed the world’s population in a sustainable and healthy manner. How can Protera answer this challenge?

Currently we are faced with the major problem of how to sufficiently feed the entire population with dwindling resources. The challenge then is to find new sustainable food sources that will allow us to feed our growing population. At Protera, we have been able to unblock new sources of plant-based proteins that presently cannot be digested by humans, but with the help of enzymes, this may become possible.

What is used to preserve the food?

Today, chemical ingredients are used, which obviously no one likes because we would all prefer to eat more natural products. So, our goal is to discover a protein that is able to adhere to a structure critical to the survival of those microorganisms that infect our food. This means that we can use more natural products to protect our food from contaminants.  For example, bread is usually contaminated by mold. What we do is identify which molds are attacking the bread in order to design a peptide that will block it.  

What other products has Protera worked on?

FN: We are working on a very interesting protein that will help us manipulate food textures using bioengineered oils. The industry is trying to produce plant-based meats, but so far has been unable to recreate the same texture provided by animal fat.  Developments in this area would allow us to recreate the texture, thereby creating the ingredient that could revolutionize the meat industry. 

What is the next step for Protera?

The next big step is to expand into Europe and secure the next round of financing that will permit us to launch our entire line of ingredients currently under development.

Food Security and APEC

By 2050, it is estimated that the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion people. This is a worrying number because it will lead to a change in consumption patterns in terms of variety, quality, security and nutrition.

It is in this context that APEC Chile 2019 is organizing Food Security Week from August 15 through 24, in Puerto Varas.

This meeting, organized within the framework of the Third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 3), will present an opportunity for representatives of the APEC member economies to discuss the sustainability of food systems, how to take advantage of new technologies, the rise of associativity in food value chains, and strengthening rural development in an effort to work towards a more productive, sustainable and inclusive food system that can meet current and future global challenges. 

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