According to data compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worldwide production of soybean exceeds 300 million tons per year. Argentina is the third largest producer, behind the United States and Brazil. One of the main outputs of this crop is soybean flour, to be used primarily in cattle feed.
In order for soybean flour to be commercialized, it must first pass salmonela and mycotoxin controls. Francisco Colombatti has developed a microbiological treatment that prevents the growth of both the bacteria and the fungus which produce mycotoxins. Thanks to this development, Colombatti has been selected as one of MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition´s Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016.
"The treatment consists of fumigating the flour with a combination of six strains of nonpathogenic bacteria," the young Argentinian biotechnologist explains. "It was also necessary to develop a new technology specifically for this spray," he adds. Currently, Molinos Agro, the company Colombatti works for, is using this treatment on three million tons of flour produced annually, and is negotiating licensing the treatment to other producers.
At present, the only existing treatment for soybean flour is the application of combinations of short chain organic acids. "These combinations are expensive, toxic, difficult to apply, volatile and corrosive," Colombatti explains. The product developed by this Argentinian biotechnologist, in contrast, "is easy to apply, does not pose a threat to humans, is not volatile or corrosive and has a protective effect on the flour which lasts for more than 90 days."
The disadvantages of the traditional method limit the use of the flour, and Colombatti points out that, in order to reduce costs, "it is common practice to only fumigate the last few tons of each shipment loaded onto the ships for export, since these are the only ones from which samples will be taken during the inspection. It is the farmers, who face the risk of suffering economic losses due to a salmonella outbreak, who suffer the most."
According to the director of Polo Tecnológico de Pando (Uruguay) and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016, Fernando Amestoy, Colombatti "shows great innovative merit." Amestoy values the work of this young Argentinian, whose impact will transcend to the benefit of his company by addressing "relevant problems for the productive sector."
Discover all of the winning projects from Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016.