- The overall objective of the R&D&I project NutriGen 4.0 is to design a biotechnological process, which can monitor, simulate and predict outcomes so nutraceuticals can be created by means of advanced calculation and modelling tools.
- The results obtained from the pilot initiative will make it possible to implement new, more efficient production processes, opening up the possibility of creating personalised formulas for consumers thanks to the study of the genomic profiles of the fungal strains included.
- The project is part of the “Aid for strategic R&D&I projects aligned with Industry 4.0” so named by the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) of the “Fábrica Intelixente e Sostible” programme.
HIFAS DA TERRA (HdT) and the ANFACO-CECOPESCA Technological Centre presented the industrial innovation project NutriGen 4.0, in which 4.0 technologies will be implemented in the intelligent and sustainable production of nutraceuticals made from medicinal mushrooms. In addition, it will improve the efficiency of production processes and the traceability of raw materials of natural origin, opening up the possibility of customising certain formulas to specific needs based on the genomic profile of the species analysed.
The virtual presentation event “NutriGen 4.0: intelligent nutraceutical production processes based on the analysis of new biosynthetic routes of edible fungi from Galicia” was broadcast from the central facilities of HdT in Bora (Pontevedra) and included the participation of the Scientific Director (CSO) of HdT, Dr. Arturo Rodríguez, director of Research and Innovation (CRIO) of HdT, Dr. Esteban Sinde Stompel and, representing the technology centre ANFACO-CECOPESCA, its Secretary General, Mr. Juan Manuel Vieites Baptista de Sousa, and the heads of Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 and Biotechnology and Health, Hugo Barreiro and Celina Costas, respectively. The director of the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN), Patricia Argerey Vilar, spoke at the presentation ceremony, highlighting the importance of the project both for its “disruptive nature” and its “strategic commitment”. In this sense, she acknowledged that the teams involved, with a highly qualified technological profile, will be the “key to addressing the challenges posed” and “will provide the necessary knowledge to build the industrial future of Galicia”.
Innovation and competitiveness
The use of 4.0 technologies lands in the food and healthcare sector thanks to this new NutriGen 4.0 project. Dr. Esteban Sinde, highlighted how this “will allow the development of intelligent and environmentally friendly industry, helping Galicia to become a European benchmark in healthy eating”.
Mr. Juan Manuel Vieites Baptista de Sousa, added that this project and its particular commitment to Industry 4.0 in the agri-food and biotechnology sectors is “aligned with international trends” and “sets the standard for a new innovative production model” for Galicia “facilitating access to globalised markets by achieving excellence”.
Change in the next 31 months
This initiative, as Dr Arturo Rodríguez explained, is a “transformational project” for HdT that will allow the optimisation of production processes and the development of new nutraceuticals based on specific fungal fractions of extracts with specific health benefits.
NutriGen 4.0 is based on the results of previous R&D projects in which “we discovered that we were missing the potential of the fungal strains because we did not know all the details of the production processes”. Thanks to the experience gained by the FungiTechOnco project, HdT discovered the potential of mycelial cultivation. The CosmetInnova project led to improvements in the extraction process, the concentration of bioactive compounds and an increase in solubility of fungal extracts, all of which affects the bioavailability of these compounds.
“Technology and processes determine the presence of bioactive compounds”, said Dr Rodríguez. Thus, NutriGen 4.0 makes it possible to approach fractionation “a step further in the extracting process”. This system makes it possible to divide molecular structures into fractions to “identify bioactive compounds, just as the pharmaceutical industry does”.
According to Dr Arturo Rodríguez, the optimisation of the production processes will allow for more in-depth use of control sensors and real-time monitoring, as well as communication with warehouse control software, automated management of production orders and automated quality analysis protocols.
To this end, ANFACO-CECOPESCA’s experience will be fundamental for both the monitoring of processes and the application of technologies aligned with Industry 4.0, as well as for the study of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the production of bioactive compounds. The technology centre has a solid track record in both areas of research, backed by multiple projects and recognition from the administrations.
The integral changes expected from this project will be carried out in the central facilities of HdT in Bora (Pontevedra), where the pilot project will be carried out in “high tech rooms”. Once the process is validated the production system will be scaled up.
Researchers of the NutriGen 4.0 project. From left to right: Hugo Barreiro (ANFACO-CECOPESCA), Elena Balboa (HdT), Celina Costas (ANFACO-CECOPESCA) and Arturo Rodríguez (HdT).
Safety and efficacy
According to Dr. Esteban Sinde, the R&D&I work carried out for more than 20 years has allowed HdT to evolve from traditional production to cultivation in bioreactors and the development of nutraceuticals from high quality products derived from superior fungi.
While the project will provide exhaustive control of critical parameters of production, concentration and stabilisation, it will also serve to study the production of fungal secondary metabolites with medicinal activity by studying the fungal genome using Big Data bioinformatics analysis.
Digitalisation of the production process
According to Hugo Barreiro, the technologies that will be implemented to meet these goals will include the use of hyperspectral cameras and the selection and implementation of the most appropriate sensors to effectively monitor production processes. “If you can measure, you can improve the process,” he argued. The cameras will allow automated control of nutraceutical production because, “through a pixel we can capture elements of interest without affecting the production process”.
Celina Costas, Head of Biotechnology and Health at ANFACO-CECOPESCA, specified the biotechnologies that will be implemented in the nutraceutical production process at HdT to analyse the immunomodulatory and antimicrobial activity of two of the fungal strains that HdT works with. Genomics and Big Data will serve to “differentiate metabolic pathways” while laboratory technologies “will determine the production of certain metabolites, their concentration and the selection of the fractions of the extracts with the greatest effect”.
This project will conclude with a clinical trial in patients in collaboration with a national research centre. The results obtained will also be analysed using 4.0 technologies.
Thus, in this pilot study, the mathematical analysis of the various production, concentration and purification techniques of fungal active ingredients will allow for a step forward in the development of new formulas and for the improvement of current formulas based on their naturally occurring compounds and potential applications.
- HIFAS DA TERRA and ANFACO-CECOPESCA make up the consortium created for the development of the NutriGen 4.0 project, which will have a total budget of €2,058,312.86 of which HdT will receive €1,004,953.01 (49%) and ANFACO-CECOPESCA €1,013,444.83 (51%).
- This is one of the nine initiatives selected in the current Fábrica Intelixente programme organised by the Galician Innovation Agency aimed at improving the competitiveness of the strategic sectors of the Galician economy.