Seeds – the alternative of the future to combat climate change and food insecurity

According to the FAO (UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization) seeds are the alternative of the future to combat climate change and food insecurity. Victor Delgado Morales, PhD student candidate from the Peruvian partner university UNALM, has developed a research project focusing on gluten-free Lupine (Lupinus mutabilis Sweet) and chia (Salvia hispanica L.) cookies. He says that seeds are highly nutritious and have functional importance. Peruvian lupine, known in Peru as tarwi, is widely cultivated and consumed in the Andean high-altitude areas. Currently tarwi receives a lot of attention because of its high protein content, oil and fiber. Chia seeds in turn are widely distributed in Mexico and Central America and occupy an important market in countries such as Argentina and Bolivia, gaining interest in the field of food science and technology because of the high content of soluble and insoluble fiber and the presence of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron.

Victor is a teacher at the Food Technology Department of the Faculty of Food Industries doing his doctoral thesis in the Food Sciences program of UNALM. At the University of Turku, where he is currently doing an exchange period under the PECOLO project, he is developing his research with the support of Dr. Jukka-Pekka Suomela and other teachers and students of the Department of Biochemistry.

Victor Delgado in the laboratory at the Dept. of Biochemistry of UTU.

The objective of his research is to study the characteristics and physiochemical composition of white and black chia seeds which, in addition to the aforementioned properties, are quite important due to their high oil content with a good fatty acid profile. By using gas chromatography he has worked on the identification and quantification of fatty acids present in chia oil. After having made the chromatographic analysis he has managed to determine a fairly interesting fatty acid profile with the predominant fatty acid being linolenic acid, corresponding to a group of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids – better known as omega-3. This fatty acid is highly valued for its positive properties. In addition, Victor is determining the antioxidant capacity of chia seeds, which will allow a clearer understanding of the conditions to be taken into account when using the seeds in food products.

Victor is one of the 4 PhD exchange students from Peru and Colombia who are doing an exchange period between 2-4,5 months at the University of Turku. The exchange periods funded by PECOLO offers new perspectives to the Peruvian and Colombian students working one way or another with topics related to Andean crops, agriculture or food and nutrition. In addition, it allows Turku University to continue the long term cooperation with UNALM, as well  as to identify future collaboration possibilities with Colombians. Last but not least, the project and the research of the students allows us at Turku University to learn more about Andean crops, agro-food sector and food and nutrition in Peruvian and Colombian context!

The original blog post written by Victor is in the Spanish version of this page, here.

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