Coimbra University students produce combined fruit and algae - a 100% natural combination of the two. Arbutus, wild forest berries and seaweed are the ingredients that make up Gratô, an eco-innovative food product similar to a gelatin with pulp, produced by a team of students from the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC) and the Agrarian School of Coimbra (ESAC).
The idea of creating a new food product that could be ingested by everyone - children and adults, lactose and gluten intolerant included, vegetarians, diabetics, and so on - was created in a Roadshow held in the framework of a partnership between the University of Coimbra (UC) and PortugalFoods promoted by the Office of the Vice-Dean for Research and Innovation, Amílcar Falcão.
"Gratô consists of a combination of fruit and seaweed that is 100% natural and of vegetable origin. The medronho, or arbutus, is the main ingredient because we want to promote the consumption of this fruit, with much potential but little explored besides its use in liquors. Gratô also contains wild berries and seaweed, namely Grateloupia turuturu and Undaria pinnatifida (commonly known as Wakame)," describe Daniela Pedrosa, Isabel Cardoso and Nádia Correia.
The FCTUC Masters in Biodiversity and Plant Biotechnology stress that "the introduction of seaweed in the combination is a nutritionally relevant asset because it is very rich in iodine (essential for cognitive development in children) and in dietary fiber".
The inventors of Gratô also emphasize that they intend to promote a healthy diet and, therefore, the combination "does not have in its composition refined sugars, has only the natural fruit sugar and a small portion of stevia (natural sweetener)".
For the production of this new food mix, the students had the guidance of professors Leonel Pereira, FCTUC specialist in marine macroalgae, who led the selection, identification and collection of algae; and Goreti Botelho (ESAC), who guided all stages of the confection.
Gratô, in the prototype stage, was already presented at an agrifood fair and the reaction of the consumers who tried it "was extremely positive, encouraging us to put the product on the market", say the young women, adding that "we are already in contact with some companies that are interested in marketing the product. However, we still have to carry out more tests but, if everything goes as planned, Gratô could be on the table of the Portuguese in a year".
For now, next Friday, May 26, the young women will compete for the national contest of the Ecotrophelia contest, an international competition promoted by PortugalFoods and the Federation of Portuguese Agro Foodstuffs Industries (FIPA) to reward innovation in academia In the agri-food sector. If they win, they will present Gratô to all Europe (in Ecotrophelia Europe 2017).
University of Coimbra
Translated from the Portuguese version
by Olga Santos