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Chile approves project to export freeze-dried food to China

The Productive Development Committee of the Bío Bío Region approved resources to co-finance a project to export freeze-dried food, such as fruits, vegetables, and seafood, from Chillan to China.

The project will be implemented by the Department of Food Engineering of the University of Bío Bío (UBB) in partnership with Frigorifico San Jose, from Chillan, for berries, and with Comercializadora Falkon, a company that processes sea cucumbers, from Puerto Montt.

The development, implementation and transfer of freeze-drying programs for fruits, vegetables and seafood to obtaining premium products project, which is directed by researcher Andres Segura Ponce, includes the construction and installation of a semi-industrial freeze dryer in 176 square meters at the headquarters of the UBB in Chillán, so as to publicize this technology among Chilean companies and increase the exports of freeze-dried products to China, mainly of seafood, fruits, and vegetables. 

Freeze drying technology best preserves the original features of the product, according to Andres Segura. "The lyophilization process is the drying of food through sublimation of the water, i.e. the water freezes inside the product and then its sublimated going from a solid state (ice) to gas (vapor), allowing the product to retain many of its original features. The passage through a liquid state produces negative effects on food, such as color change, shrinkage, and loss of protein and vitamins. These disadvantages are largely overcome through lyophilization," he said.

A Chinese freeze dryer
The researcher said that the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences (CAAMS) was going to donate the lyophilization equipment to the UBB.

The donation is part of a joint project between the CAAMS and the UBB, which has its origins in a scientific cooperation project that was funded by Conicyt in 2013: Implementation and promotion of security monitoring technology and lyophilization of fruit and vegetable products in Chile. This project was carried out by Chinese researchers from institutions from the Zhejiang University, China Agricultural University, CAAMS, and the University of the Bio Bio.

The semi-industrial lyophilization equipment has a capacity of 200 kg/batch and is worth about $100 million, according to Segura. "The project has two parts, creating the facilities and developing the lyophilization programs. In this context, we will be working on the development of pilot products, particularly of blueberries, raspberries, and seafood. In the latter case, we'll work with sea cucumbers and abalones (which are highly sought seafoods in Asia), as they are the requirements of our Chinese counterparts," Segura said.
The researcher said that the UBB must make technology transfer, develop protocols to process the products, and send high quality premium products to China to explore its markets. 

"It is necessary to study the operating conditions. Each product is different, and we must study their exposure times, and the final product quality, among other things," he said.

If there are no setbacks, the facilities should be ready in nearly four months and we'll be able to install the freeze-dryer.

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