Technological innovation in Andean cacao
Agronomic practices and agro-industrial technological development to improve cocoa bean quality, in order to improve socioeconomic situation of producers in Peru and Colombia.
Context of the story
The Andean cacao is recognized for its potential in flavor and aroma as a raw material for fine chocolate. Also, it is a source of flavonoids which are attributed to improvements in health and is the bases of the demand for new nutritional products. However, it has low production and export compared to other continents. In countries like Colombia and Peru, 90% are small cacao producers with a low level of organization and ambiguous production systems that include bad practices and insufficient technology. Thus, limiting its potential due to the requirements that are demanded worldwide for export and limits the producers' opportunities to obtain a better price for their produce.
¿What technological improvements can be implemented in Andean cacao?
The implemented initiative
This research seeks to improve the quality of the cocoa bean and add value by using differentiation of organoleptic properties. It also suggests strategies to reduce the presence of cadmium for compliance with export restrictions. Likewise, technological advances in the fermentation stage by means of starter cultures and development of a prototype of flavonoid-rich encapsulates, which will cover a market with a nutritional approach. These offered technology would improve the income of the primary producer since it increases the possibility of accessing markets with a focus on new consumption characteristics.
Improving the competitiveness of Andean cacao
The technological solution
It seeks to strengthen the deficiencies that Andean cacao cultivation presents hand in hand with the producers in order to deepen the analysis and development of different aspects such as: I) the implementation of a geographic information system in production areas for each country with emphasis on edaphoclimatic variables that influence cocoa quality, II) the identification of high quality regional cacao that can be used for future planting processes, III) a package evaluated at greenhouse level to evaluate the decrease or absorption of cadmium by the plant, IV) a prototype of an ecological fermenter with the application of microorganisms that initiate the fermentation processes in order to improve performance and organoleptic quality, V) the development of an ecological equipment for fermentation, VI) the development of a prototype of encapsulation rich in flavonoids present in cacao and VII) knowledge transfer through participatory workshops.
"The Project has allowed us to know the composition of our soils, the content of cadmium and trained us in good cultivation management for higher quality."
For 2019, the base of the cadmium content at soil and grain level was established in 3 areas of the 2 countries, where 65% of the analyzed territory presented a low Cd content, but only in one zone the bean presented Cd content above the critical level allowed, this being favorable for exportation. At the same time, the infrastructure and behavior of the producer at the management level was evaluated, finding that the main differences between the countries were in the implementation of fertilizers, irrigation and postharvest. In Perú, producers use more technology and community fermentation process. Likewise, a bank of microorganisms isolated from fermentations for each country was created, with prevalence of diversity species. Continuing research is being done on the evaluation of treatments at the greenhouse stage to observe the decrease of cadmium absorption, the design of an ecological fermenter, and standardization of the flavonoid extraction process, for nutritional supplements.