Plant secondary metabolites and health course at UNALM

As part of the project, I had the chance to give a four-day course to the doctoral students of UNALM in the beginning of April. My topic was Plant secondary metabolites and health. In addition to the doctoral candidates, the course was open to other students and staff who were interested. I also served as a visiting lecturer of a course related to analytical methods used in food sciences.

My course was given in English, partly because of my limited skills in Spanish and partly because the doctoral students are required to have training in English during their studies. After all, Doctoral Programme in Food Sciences requires that the students write a scientific paper in English.

Jukka-Pekka Suomela in Peru


This was my fourth trip to Peru and UNALM. At that point of the Spring, the weather in Finland was rather lousy so it was refreshing to travel to the sunshiny Lima. This time I also had the change to travel to Ballestas Islands (“poor man’s Galapagos”) in Ica area to see some penguins, as well as to see and experience the sand dunes of Huacachina.

Dr. Jukka-Pekka Suomela, Dept. of Biohemistry, Turku University






Breakfast with the non-academic partners

The UEB Staff of the PECOLO Project met for breakfast with key non-academic partners on Tuesday 10th of April 2018 at the VIP restaurant located at the Fundadores building.  Kenneth Ochoa V., Colombian coordinator of the Project, presented generalities, key aspects, and the impact of the Project, after all participants introduced themselves and expressed their initial expectations. Next, the participants asked questions about their role in the project, and the UEB Staff answered all their questions, placing emphasis in both the impact of the potential collaboration projects and the benefit of using the Future Studies and Foresight Methodology in the strategic planning processes of their own organizations. At the end of the meeting, participants from: Secretaría Distrital de Ambiente (SDA), Bio Plaza, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), Asociación Colombiana de Ciencia y Tecnología de Alimentos (ACTA), and Academia de Innovación para la Sostenibilidad (AISO) expressed their support to the PECOLO Project and their committed participation in the Project workshops.

Dr. Ritva Repo-Carrasco received the Order of the Lion of Finland

The Coordinator of the PECOLO project at UNALM, Peru, Dr. Ritva Repo-Carrasco received the Order of the Lion on March 19 at the Embassy of Finland for the scientific achievements and contributions to the development of scientific collaboration between Finland and Peru. The Order of the Lion is conferred upon citizens who have distinguished themselves in the service of Finland (although foreign nationals may also be awarded decorations of the Orders). Ritva is a professor in food chemistry at UNALM and an author of a large number of scientific publications focusing especially on quinoa.

We are proud to continue the collaboration with her on the Andean native crops and take forward the cooperation between Finland, Peru, and now also with Colombia!

Dr. Ritva Repo-Carrasco received the Order of the Lion at the Embassy of Finland in Lima on March 19. Photo credits: Embassy of Finland in Lima.




Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PECTIA) of the Colombian Agricultural Sector (2017-2027)

The key for an innovative society and its sustainable growth lies in the investment in Education, Research, and Development.   Higher Education Institutions have both human and technical resources to support quality education, R&D, and innovation environments.  For this reason, the Project submitted by the Finland Futures Research Center (FFRC) in cooperation with Functional Foods Forum (FFF) of University of Turku, the Peruvian Universidad Agraria La Molina (UALM), and the Colombian Universidad El Bosque (UEB) is looking for sustainable and innovative Andean Native Crops Futures in Peru and Colombia.

The FFRC-FFF-UALM-UEB project completely agrees with the Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PECTIA, acronym in Spanish language) of the Colombian Agricultural Sector (2017-2027) in that “solid innovation of agricultural processes is fundamental for the implementation of agricultural-based policies through public investment, which will support a more market-oriented, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive agricultural development.”

by Dr. Omar Trujillo, UEB

The first futures workshops for innovation environment in Peru and Colombia

Director Dr. Juha Kaskinen, Project coordinator Ms. Hanna Lakkala and Junior expert in futures studies Mrs. Noora Vähäkari, from Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku, traveled to Bogotá and Lima for the first set of lectures and workshops of the PECOLO project related to sustainable innovation of local Andean crops. Functional Foods Forum (FFF), Researcher and coordinator Mr. Jaakko Korpela, and post-doc researcher in biochemistry Dr. Carlos Gomez held lectures in their topics and also attended and assisted in the innovation workshops.

In both locations, Bogotá on November 7th and Lima on November 14th, Dr. Kaskinen started the innovation oriented training session with introduction to futures studies, the history, concepts and key methodology of the discipline. Additionally, he also gave a quick look on the structure and functions of FFRC. In Bogotá, the first lecture gathered some 15 people from various public and private organisations, plus university staff. University of El Bosque, where the training and workshop were held, simultaneously hosted an international conference on medicinal science and technology, which occupied lot of potential audience. In Lima, the two-day training session started off with a warm welcome from the Finnish Ambassador to Peru Mr. Mika Koskinen. In Lima, the participants numbered some 40 people widely across the Peruvian food and agriculture sector and innovation experts. The training session and workshop were organized in the University of Agriculture La Molina campus.

PECOLO project team from Peruvian and Finnish partner universities in UNALM.

In the innovation workshops multidisciplinary and participatory simultaneous co-creation and brainstorming methodologies were used. Groups of six to eight people started to discuss about food and agriculture sector in the respective countries, using PESTEC and ACTVOD tables and the Futures wheel canvases. The current or critical or interesting trends and values, innovation systems, production patterns, consumption habits, and important issues related to agriculture were discussed, using the canvases to structure the discussions. The groups discussed topics such as the gap between urban and rural dichotomy, the significance of global trends and market pressure, land ownership and conflicts, environmental issues and access to new technologies and food trends. All ideas were written in post-it pads and attached in large posters.

Groups working around the Futures table, PESTEC and ACTVOD tables. 

The aim of the futures wheel methodology was to spark discussion on the large patterns and changes taking place in the sector and to prepare for the more detailed discussions later on. Once done, all groups chose four to five topics which they wanted to elaborate further in ACTVOD methodology (discussing the actors, customers, transformation processes, values, obstacles and drivers behind the topics chosen). This process not only supported the horizon scanning of the food and agriculture sector in both countries, but also supports the next phases of the innovation path in the PECOLO project.

ACTVOD table results in Bogotá

In Bogotá, the work continued the next day with PESTEC analysis (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, cultural aspects and critical signals of the food and agriculture sector), whereas in Peru all three methods had to be done in a single day due to unforeseeable national holiday. PESTEC is a commonly used multidisciplinary tool to elaborate certain topic in various perspectives and to ensure that all critical elements are covered. In this session, the team included also the framework of megatrends, trends, weak signals and wild cards in the work. Consequently, the topical trends and patterns could be assessed in very profound way.

Futures wheel results.

The training and workshop sessions in both locations were successful and gathered a lot of interest and positive feedback, particularly on the facilitation of multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral work. They also functioned well as the first steps to open up and continuously work on the sustainable development and use of native Andean crops and built more international discussion space around the future of the food and agriculture sector in both countries. As for the Finnish perspective, the PECOLO project provides a unique academic linkage from Finland to and between Peru and Colombia.

by Noora Vähäkari

Signing the project agreement between UNALM and UTU

The news web site of Universidad Nacional Agraria la Molina, Gaceta Molinera, published an article about the opening ceremony of the project and about the first activities. The Ambassador of Finland to Peru, Mr. Mika Koskinen, attended the ceremony, as did the Rector of UNALM, PhD. Enrique Florez.

The first futures workshops had participants from a wide range of organizations working in food and agriculture sector in Peru, such as National Institute of Agrarian Innovations, Ministry of Agriculture, CONCYTEC (National Council of Science, technology and technological Innovation), as well as private sector companies.

The full article can be read here (only in Spanish):

Project kick-off

At the end of August we had the PECOLO project’s kick-off week in Finland with the project partners from Peru and Colombia. During the week we had, in addition to project planning in Helsinki and Turku, time to visit some companies and take our guests to a Finnish sauna and swimming in the Baltic sea.

We ended the week with a kick-off dinner attended by the Embassies of Peru and Colombia in Finland, and by the ambassador of Finland to Peru as well as the Charge d’affaires of Finland in Colombia.

Kick-off dinner at the surplus food restaurant Loop. The restaurant ‘s business model is based on circular economy and it uses surplus food of producers and super markets as its main ingredient.

One of the company visits we made was to a Finnish quinoa farm! It is located in Lieto, outsido of the city of Turku, and is the only large scale quinoa farm in Finland with about 100 ha of quinoa.

Finnish quinoa.
Finnish quinoa in Lieto outside of Turku in August. By October it will have turned red and will be ready for harvest.
Colombians and Peruvians inspecting Finnish quinoa.

According to our Andean guests the quinoa grown in Finland has smaller grains than the Andean varieties and it remained unclear what the variety was called and where it originated from.  It was however interesting to see another Andean crop having found Finland! Potato, which us Finns is a find very typical Finnish food crop and quite central in our diet, is of course an Andean crop too, but after some 300 years of cultivating it in Finland we just don’t think about it as an exported crop anymore, whereas quinoa has found Finland and Europe just during the past years and has recently become a popular grain due to its nutritional values. Quinoa is an excellent example of a “new”  Andean crop that has found its way to the European plates and different types of food innovations based on quinoa can now be found at least in larger super markets with health products as well as in health food stores.

Hanna Lakkala