Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: Centro Carén, CeTA: Turning Chile into a world powerhouse of healthy foods

Generating an unprecedented change in the innovation ecosystem in the national food industry is the objective of the recently inaugurated Carén Center , belonging to the Technological Center for Food Innovation, CeTA . A corporation created in 2015 with the support of Corfo and which is part of the roadmap of the Strategic Food Transformation Program. It is made up of the University of Chile , the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile , the University of Talca , the University of La Frontera , the Chile Foundation and the Fraunhofer Foundation .

With the mission that Chile becomes one of the world powers in the production of sophisticated and sustainable food, it promotes the creation of Innovation Centers, located in strategic areas of Chile. The Carén Center seeks to promote the central area and joins those already existing in La Araucanía and Coquimbo .

As highlighted by the Minister of Economy, Lucas Palacios : “The inauguration of this center marks a milestone, because it will improve and facilitate access to innovation, creating a space where scientists and academics can work together with large companies, but also hand in hand of entrepreneurs from all over the central area, who will be able to get that push they need to turn their idea into a business. Today we see a consolidated project that will strengthen the Chilean food industry, making it more competitive, with healthier products and that will give new impetus to a key industry for the future of Chile ”.

” Initiatives like these allow our entrepreneurs, through innovation, to add value to their projects , in order to turn Chile into a world-class agri-food power, with a view to the sustainable reactivation of our economy”, added the executive vice president of CORFO, Pablo Terrazas .

As the rector of the Catholic University Ignacio Sánchez highlighted : “CeTA’s work in transferring technology and new knowledge in food, dialogues very directly with the public commitment of the university, since we are working in different areas, such as food production, soil cultivation, nutrition and chronic diseases. Therefore, we can do interdiscipline and we can put all the research potential of the different faculties of the university, at the service of the development of a topic as important as the healthy diet of our population ”.

State-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment
With an avant-garde design, its circular shape allows a 360-degree panoramic view of the Carén Park. The Center covers an area of ​​1,065 m², with 544 m² dedicated to piloting and prototyping, 110 m² of area for the process control laboratory, and 40 m² of warehouses, leaving 10% of the surface area for offices and meeting rooms.

The works, started in October 2019, involved an investment of 59,000 UF, which progressed rapidly despite the health crisis due to the pandemic, allowing the immediate start of operations. Regarding high standard equipment, around 400 million pesos have been invested so far.

The infrastructure is designed to allow the prototyping, piloting and scaling of food innovations, with raw materials and agri-food by-products to which value is added.

As the Vice-Rector for Research Pedro Bouchon explains : “This project was born from a diagnosis in which it is verified that in order to produce food development at the national level, it is necessary to have an infrastructure that did not exist : neither for small businesses, nor for medium-sized businesses. entrepreneurs, nor for entrepreneurs, nor for researchers who want to transform their ideas into products ”.

For this, the center has state-of-the-art technological equipment , which allows the use of natural colorants, raw materials and discards, such as barley from beer to create a cereal, or the “marc” or grape waste in the wine industry. wine, to make sweet gummies. Or a bioreactor, with a capacity of 75 liters, to make probiotics and prebiotics on a large scale.

“CeTA’s work in transferring technology and new knowledge in food, dialogues very directly with the public commitment of the university” – Ignacio Sánchez, rector of UC.

Create and test
“Here there is an infrastructure to be able to carry out pilot tests, which allows entrepreneurs, an SME or researchers to use an evaporator, a dryer, an exclusor or a concentrator, equipment that is needed to be able to produce food innovation developments that did not exist until now. or they were not available ”, says Pedro Bouchon.

The process includes from the development of the product concept, to creating pilots in small quantities, to better face the appearance on the market. “We help entrepreneurs or medium-sized companies that have an idea that they want to materialize, those that approach CeTA where we work together to make that product”, explains Jean Paul Veas , CEO of CeTA.

As academic Wendy Franco , from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Bioprocesses of the UC School of Engineering explains : “ This is a space where it is possible to translate an idea into a prototype, into something tangible and scalable . The pilot plant is carefully thought out and equipped with complementary development lines that allow the transformation of raw materials into finished products, ready for commercialization. In addition to having highly trained professionals to guide that entrepreneur, businessman or academic in the best way to develop and transfer the product ”.

In this sense, the UC has been developing food innovations for a long time, which can be enhanced with this new center . The professor highlights, for example, “ NotCo , which is by far the most important innovation that we have had in the university in the area of ​​food and which is now a unicorn -with a value greater than a million dollars-. Also interesting to name ReSoul , which is an aromas recuperator for the wine industry; FishExtend , which is a product made with natural ingredients that allows to extend the shelf life of fish; the formulation of edible coatings of quinoa flour, which have been industrially tested on strawberries, with very good results; and nano encapsulation of bee pollen for the development of superfoods. These are just some examples, because we have many other developments that are in the final phase or in the development phase ”.

The operations of the Carén Center will begin with six lines of work, which will progressively increase until completing 19 by the year 2023. Those that begin at this stage are:
1.- Sauces line : development of semi-liquid products or medium viscosity to starting from horticultural and / or livestock raw materials.
2.- Line of oils : extraction and stabilization of oils from raw materials and by-products of the agro-industrial chain.
3.- Extruded snack line : new snack-type products, such as breakfast cereals, soufflés, among others.
4.- Line of protein isolates: new alternatives for protein isolates for the development of new products, following plant-based trends.
5.- Ingredients / colorants line : development of ingredients and additives.
6.- Fermentation line : new products with fermentation processes for the production of symbiotic products (prebiotics, probiotics).

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