From the lab to the real world
A technology like Oviita would be meaningless without the means and plans to make it effective in reality. Dr. Warren Wilson cautioned us that humanitarian projects often fail due to a lack of understanding of whatis needed and what will be accepted by the end users. Therefore, we have consulted with stakeholders and community members to find out how Oviita could best be put into action some day. This includes the varying materials, resources, and skills available to build the Field Adapted Bioreactors and cultivate the yeast, and ensuring that it is both safe and acceptable to consumers as a food ingredient.
Field Adaptable Bioreactor
When people hear the word bioreactor, they tend to think of some complicated concept found in science fiction or advanced industry. We have made an effort to make it the exact opposite. Our intention has been to develop the Field Adaptable Bioreactor (FAB) around simplicity, sustainability, and flexibility and we believe we can accomplish this with the help of our Lab Adaptable Bioreactor (LAB). Due to the adaptable design of the FAB, we are essentially giving our users the creative freedom to use whatever materials they may have at hand; encouraging the act of recycling scrap materials and increasing accessibility.
With data collected from the LAB, we will eventually produce a number of various growth charts, optimization techniques, and design ideas. These will form a package that will be sent to users. Our designs will include information like the effectiveness of different materials for bioreactor tanks, ideal dimensions, and tricks for troubleshooting, such as the water bottle siphon shown on our bioreactor page. Since we will not go into an area that we first don’t have established community partners, we will be able to orchestrate assistance outside of the typical training and support programs for anyone that requests it. If, for example, a group was unable to procure an air pump to construct a FAB, we will place their request on our crowdfunding platform.
One of the most exciting things about Oviita is how well our system works with communities. By making use of microenterprises as a means for deploying our health product, we are empowering local women, generating economic growth within communities, and encourages positive societal change. All of this is aside from the obvious health advantages our product provides. We aren’t the first organization to come up with a model that utilizes such a system, organizations such as Western Heads East, have had great success and it is their success that provides the evidence to support these claims. We hope to utilize their model to make Oviita a success in mitigating preventable nutritional deficiencies.
Before we initiate the process of supporting a new microenterprise, our first step is always to form a relationship with a community partner. This could look like many different things. It could be a group of community health workers, a women’s empowerment organization, a university, or even a youth group. Since our interactions with people will be so diverse, we won’t have a single strategy for determining our support for a microenterprise.
However, once we have determined our support for a microenterprise, we will try to work as closely with them as possible, and if we cannot personally, we will arrange for community support. Our success is dependant on our public perception. Therefore if we support a microenterprise and it falls apart, people will trust us less. This is something we cannot allow. For that reason, we will try to implement a break even policy. What this means is that if a group is losing money, we will try our best to supply them with a wage to cover costs so that they may keep trying to become self-sustaining. This was proven to be successful with the women’s group, Yogurt Mamas. To make their sales, they will likely have to travel to various markets but fortunately, this yeast can be transported easily since it can be dried and still retain its value. Our hope is that this feature will allow and encourage these groups to travel farther to distribute our product since distribution might otherwise be a more significant barrier.
FOOD SAFETY AND COOKBOOK
Y. lipolytica has been evaluated and approved for safe consumption as an edible nutritional yeast by a variety of sources. It was approved by the European Food Safety Authority in 2019 for consumption of whole-cell biomass after being heat-killed. Their findings concluded that there were no nutritional or toxicological concerns for human dietary use, and granted permission to produce Y. lipolytica cell mass as a safe edible supplement. Additionally, Y. lipolytica is already a common component of dairy and meat products, particularly sausages. It is part of the desirable flora of common cheeses including Gouda, Picante, Apulian, Camembert, blue-veined, Cheddar, Brie, and Feta (Zinjarde, 2013), where these yeast contribute to the overall flavour.
A study by Groenewald et. al (2014) of potential pathogenicity of Y. lipolytica concluded that the yeast could be considered on an equivalent level of non-pathogenicity as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with only a few rare examples of opportunistic infection in severely immunocompromised individuals. It is generally regarded as non-pathogenic (Zinjarde, 2013), is common and ubiquitous in the environment (EPA, 2019), and has been granted Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) (Zieniuk 2019).
Additionally, studies on recombinant beta-carotene produced by Y. lipolytica found that it did not produce effects any different from commercial beta-carotene, and shared a similar safety profile regardless of the different source. (Grenfell-Lee et al., 2013)
Finally, thymol is also regarded as a safe food ingredient. It is classified by the FDA as a food for human consumption as well as a food additive and flavouring ingredient, and possesses GRAS designation (EPA, 1993). Naturally occurring in aromatic plants especially thyme, it is widely consumed by humans. A review of its status by the EPA in 2009 concluded that thymol is a normal part of the diet and has minimal toxic effects in mammals, and is therefore an acceptable food additive.
Incorporation into local diets
In order for our project to successfully deliver its Vitamin A and anthelmintics to individuals, it must be integrated into existing food practices by people who are willing to adopt it. An important aspect of that will be taste. Although we cannot know exactly what Oviita will taste like, we can make educated guesses based on other related species of nutritional yeast and fungi. It will most likely have a savoury, cheesy, or nutty flavour, rich in umami. The thymol will additionally provide an aromatic, thyme-like taste. As such, we predict Oviita yeast will impart a pleasant flavour when added to savoury dishes such as rice or curries. Provided below are just a few examples of how Oviita might be incorporated into local meals in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Roti is included from the suggestion of our HP contact Dharamwati, who mentioned it is a dietary staple in her area.
- 4-5 cups mixed vegetables, cut into chunky slivers about 1 1/2 inches long (I used a sweet potato, two large gold potatoes, two carrots, and a cup of green beans)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (not the light kind)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp bengal gram dal (can sub with 1 tsp raw rice)
- 2 green chili peppers like jalapeno (deseed and use more or less depending on how hot the pepper is)
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil (more oil means more flavor)
- 2 sprigs (about 25-30) curry leaves
- 1 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
- 1-inch knob ginger (cut into thin slivers)
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1 tsp compressed fresh Oviita nutritional yeast
- Salt to taste
- Coriander and fresh coconut, if you have some, for garnish
Place all the cut veggies into a large pot with 1 cup of water and turmeric.
Place the coconut milk in the blender with the cumin, green chili peppers, nutritional yeast, and bengal gram dal or rice. Blend into a paste. Set aside.
When the veggies are cooked -- it should take no more than 15-20 minutes -- add the coconut paste to the veggies and stir well to mix. Let the curry come to a gentle boil over medium-low heat.
Turn off the heat and add the yogurt or lime juice. Stir to mix but be careful not to mash up the veggies because they'll be very tender at this stage.
Heat the coconut oil. Add mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the curry leaves and the ginger. Saute for a minute or two until the fragrance permeates the house.
Pour the tempering over the avial and stir to mix. Garnish, if you wish, with coriander and some fresh coconut.
Serve hot with rice.
Recipe by Vaishali, taken from Holy Cow Vegan
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or Ethiopian niter kibbeh)
- 1½ cups medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1/2 medium-sized onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1½ Tbsp berbere (A mix of garlic, ginger, chili, and other spices important in Ethiopian cuisine)
- ½ tsp dried Oviita yeast powder
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 lb beef (eye of round roast), cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 tsp iodine salt
- 2 jalapeños, deseeded and sliced
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over high heat. When the oil easily slides across the pan, add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes until the onions become translucent. Stir often so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with berbere and 2 tablespoons of water reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often.
Add beef and mix well until the meat cubes are well coated with gravy. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the meat is well cooked.If the gravy is too thick you can add another tablespoon of water.
Add salt, jalapenos, and rosemary. Give it a last stir and let it cook for 3 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. If the gravy isn't spicy enough you can add more berbere.
Serve beef tibs on injera bread with a side of Misir Wot (Ethiopian lentils) and gomen (Ethiopian collard greens)
Recipe by Hanna and Aurel Pop, taken from Gourmet Cubicle
- 6 large tomatoes
- 4 large onions
- 6 cloves of pressed garlic
- 2 chillies (optional)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp fresh wet Oviita yeast
- vegetable oil
- 500 g of beef, chicken or lamb (alt: mixed vegetables)
- 800 g long grain rice
- 1.5 litres of water or stock (± 1 stock cube, depending on how much meat is used)
- 1 teaspoon each of ground white and black pepper
Put tomatoes into the blender and set aside. Then, in a non-stick pot, fry pre-cooked meat in oil. When these have browned, remove and set aside.
In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add onions and fry until soft before adding garlic and blended tomatoes. Add meat stock and/or stock cube(s), tomato paste, ground white and black pepper and stir. Remember to season strongly because rice will later be added to this sauce.
Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat before adding rice and nutritional yeast. Stir and mix well before covering. Cook on low heat for apprroximately 20 minutes. Add vegetables and mix well. Add about 1 cup more of water and continue to cook on low heat until rice is done.
Recipe by Cynthia Prah, taken from African Food Map
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (Atta)
- 1 tsp dried Oviita yeast
- 1 cup boiling water
- pinch of salt
- melted butter for brushing the rotis
Mix dried nutritional yeast into flour. Pour the cup of boiling water into the flour, and mix in using a fork or spoon. You will have a wet, lumpy mixture.
The mixture will have cooled down a little. Knead into a soft dough. The dough will feel a little sticky, but as you knead the dough will become silky smooth.
Heat a non-stick pan on the stovetop on medium heat.
Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a neat round ball. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hands, and roll on a lightly floured surface. You can add more flour as you are rolling to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll out into a circle, about 20cm in diameter
Place the roti on the pan. Cook until it starts to bubble a little, then flip it over. Cook until the other side bubbles. Brush with butter and turn over again.Brush the other side with butter and turn over. You will be flipping your roti over 3 times. It takes about a minute or less to cook the roti.
To keep rotis soft, place them in a container with paper towel at the bottom and more on top of the rotis.
Recipe by Lorraine, taken from Tamarind Thyme
To get started, we will need money. Now that we have officially registered as a non-profit, we can begin applying for as many grants as possible. Once we become a registered charity, we can develop and utilize our crowdfunding website to start fundraising for operations. Before anything can happen on the ground, however, we need to collect data. This means sifting through survey programs, contacting government agencies, and getting in touch with other organizations. If the data for an area is not available, we can provide community health workers with our Randle Cell Testing Device to gather essential information. These days, data is sometimes worth more than gold, and this data will determine where Oviita should go and the factors that could affect our product’s success. From the data, we as an organization will sit down and develop a carefully crafted concept note that we can use to attract donors.
With data in hand, as suggested by Robert Gough from Western Heads East (a similar organization that now serves probiotic yogurt to 160 000 people) it would be most beneficial first to contact a local university in a flagship location. From there, we could then create a network of community partners. Given all three of our major partners- CAWST, Western Heads East, and West Nile Youth Empowerment Centre- have operations in Uganda, and Uganda has a high vitamin A deficiency rate (WHO, 2009), Uganda would be a rational choice.
The appeal of partnering with a university is their potential as fully developed information centers, which can provide essential resources like equipment for culturing and storing our yeast, or for conducting research, especially collaborative research. Considering how much our project has to gain from research, such as in bioreactor designs, social enterprise development, community impact, or even economic impact, we intend to make it a big part of our organization. To ensure that we are conducting this research ethically, we need to conduct this research with locals and not remotely.
While we are forging relationships with the local community, this would be the time to start making our way through the regulatory bodies. That means contacting the local Ministry of Health, The National Bureau Of Standards, University boards, ethics committees, and at the same time going through the same process here in Canada. We will need to prove our product is safe, and as Robert Gough mentioned, public perception will be a major obstacle. When all components of the product have passed a strict ethical, experimental, and regulatory standard of safety and efficacy, including biocontainment, thymol, Y. lipolytica consumption, and vitamin A mitigation, we can proceed.
At this point, we’ve established a relationship with a handful of community partners (like West Nile Youth Empowerment Center), community health workers and a university research team. We’ve made our way through the regulatory bodies, we have constructed a new concept note, now we start developing a pilot program.
This pilot program will act as the momentum, so it’s important it’s done properly. Our partner, Kelly James from CAWST, stressed the importance of developing an effective community education strategy. Fortunately, CAWST has an abundance of training materials for both organizations and local people. Capitalizing on those resources, we will develop a handful of training programs while also looking at other training programs in the community that we might be able to collaborate with, such as those put on by community health workers or even our partners. Our programs might include general health and nutrition, how to use the bioreactor, or how to run a microenterprise. This would be a good way to get feedback on our public perception as well.
We can make an increased strength of effort on our crowdfunding platform at this point as well. We will need to fund those small things like storage containers or office supplies. In addition, we will also be able to launch social media campaigns the increase our traffic.
At this point, we will be in contact with local women’s empowerment organizations and, therefore, have determined who will run our pilot program. If possible, we would like to reach out to Yogurt Mamas, an extremely successful women’s group of self-sustaining female enterprises, so that they could act as mentors to the Oviita Mamas. Since it will be hard to spend the optimal amount of time over there, and because our mission is to encourage and support others, we will likely hire a local director of operations to ensure things run smoothly. While our pilot program is running, we will be conducting a lot of studies with our university partners so that we can start making plans for the next stage.
Upon a successful pilot program, we should now have evidence to help influence our public perception in new locations as well as a good amount of data on things that work and don’t work. Moving to a new location will follow a similar sequence of steps as the first but with a little more speed. However, the biggest difference is that now that we are a little more established, we can start curating programs and resources from all our partners to specifically fit that community’s needs. If a vitamin A deficient community is in an isolated area and doesn’t have access to electricity, we can collaborate with a partner that provides solar panels. If a community doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, we collaborate with a partner like CAWST to bring access to clean water. We hope that we can ensure a successful community influence by taking as many factors into account as possible. Any plans past this point would be pure speculation, but our mission will remain the same: to provide locals with an idea and support their vision of implementation.
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