Wild innovations and wild forest berries: R&D together with SMEs and larger companies (VIDEO lecture)

June 29, 2020 | Latvian Food Bioeconomy cluster

Interreg BSR 2014.–2020. programme project “Rural RDI milieus in transition towards smart bioeconomy clusters and innovation ecosystems” (RDI2Club) was presented during the Vidzeme Innovation week in Latvia, where in a parallel session “Bioeconomy Innovations in Food Production and Gastronomy” experts shared their experience and engaged into the discussion with audience. Dr. Pekka Kilpeläinen, research manager at Oulu University in Finland, gave a presentation on “Wild innovations and wild forest berries: R&D together with SMEs and larger companies”.

At the very beginning of the lecture, it was stated that berry-picking and wild berries belong to Finnish folk culture and many families have taught their children berry-picking to understand the meaning behind money-earning. As of now, for example, the income for Taiwanese pickers is so significant, that it is possible to earn two-years’ worth of salary in only two months. Dr. Kilpeläinen highlighted one of the problems faced by the industry – too many berries are exported without processing, while there is a huge demand and potential in berry products locally –, hence the research and development is required.

The expert gave a brief introduction of the Unit of Measurement Technology and their way of cooperating with different companies, while focusing on applied research, stating that the Unit is provided with the technologies needed in product development for processing and analysing berries and other natural products. “Quite often we form consortiums where several companies from our region and one or two bigger ones are represented so that an ecosystem could be formed and everyone would benefit from it,” Dr. Kilpeläinen commented.

The participants got acquainted to lingonberries, which are known for giving harvest every autumn and being the most abundant berries, and their characteristics. Although, nowadays the most commercially significant and most researched is blueberry, lingonberry has plenty to give. “Because of the lack of research, there is a door of opportunity for further development,” implied the expert, while mentioning that the project was started because of the huge amount of lingonberry side stream that one of the regional companies was producing.

Dr. Kilpeläinen also offered an in-depth analysis of lingonberries for participants to understand the valuable components which can be found in them. Turns out, these berries consist of a powerful antioxidant, which is beneficial for health. It is decreasing inflammation and the effect of cancer and hypertension and can be useful in many other ways. A brief description of the study process was provided, and conclusions given, showing multiple discoveries which would determine that this berry has even more benefits than it was thought beforehand. The expert introduced the participants with the product made in cooperation with multiple organisations by using the formula created by Dr. Kilpeläinens’ team of researchers and scientists.

The participants got acquainted to several other end-products and experiments and were encouraged to use more products in the form of powder because of its favourable features. “It takes less space and the logistics is easier,” he added. While discussing the use of cryoconcentration, Dr. Kilpeläinen gave examples on products such as beer and birch sap and mentioned that there’s also equipment for large scale use but it’s too expensive for most of the companies marking one of the many difficulties the researchers face daily.

The session “Bioeconomy Innovations in Food Production and Gastronomy” was organised within Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme projects “Rural RDI milieus in transition towards smart Bioeconomy Clusters and Innovation Ecosystems” (RDI2CluB), “Unlocking the Potential of Bio-based Value Chains in the Baltic Sea region” (BalticBiomass4Value), Interreg Estonia – Latvia programme project “Design and promotion of tourism product based on Livonian culinary heritage” (Livonian Culinary Route).

For more information about RDI2CluB activities in Vidzeme Planning Region, contact project manager Santa Niedola, santa.niedola@vidzeme.lv