Students and faculty show off the latest food technology

The conference is meant to enable the combination of industry and academia.

By NAOMI GRANT
June 22, 2018 23:27
3 minute read.
One of the speakers at the food technology conference at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture

One of the speakers at the food technology conference at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture at Hebrew University in Rehovot. (photo credit: ROBERT H. SMITH FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE)

 
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The future of healthy eating drew crowds Thursday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot. About 300 people came to an event celebrating the institution’s 75th anniversary and giving students the opportunity to showcase their work. It featured some of the latest developments in Israeli food technology ranging from 3D printed meals to protein powder made from fly larva.

“The purpose [of the conference] is to combine industry and academia,” Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition head Oren Froy said. “We have a course of developing food products and so we thought it would be a great idea to combine all that into a conference and present the products developed during that course.”

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In the class, students focus on topics that include why new products are developed, the raw materials necessary for creating such products and current trends in the food industry. When the students create their products, they face a deadline and limited resources, just like in the real world.

“If they’re small, medium or multinational companies, they know that they continuously have to find the next product,” said Tammy Meiron, who teaches the new food product development course, in which the students who presented their products were enrolled. “And this is the purpose of our class, to give [students] the tools how to be there.”

One group of students made a gluten-free health bar made with dates and avocado powder.

“In the avocado oil industry there’s a lot of food waste... so with that food waste we had to create a new product,” said Reut Rov, a student who worked on the project. “We tried a lot of applications for this avocado... and we found that the best thing to do with it is to make a kind of powder, and the best quality of the avocado is something that is very fibrous.”

This powder can go in many types of foods, even fruit shakes and cookies, Rov said.

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Oded Shoseyov, a Hebrew University professor who works on 3D food printing, said he thinks this product has “huge potential.”

“Particularly because I could feel the slight bitterness, so that for me indicates a lot of polyphenols, which are known to be healthy,” he said. “They still need to work on the taste there, but that’s doable... the level that they reached so far with taking into consideration the relatively short period of time – they did a good job.

For his part, Shoseyov aims to use cellulose to print veggie burgers. In the future, he said he believes he’ll be able to make steak on a bone and possibly foods that don’t currently exist, such as burgers with fries in the middle.

Some products might have important practical uses.

“For example, the regular kitchen in a hospital has so many requirements... here it’s digital so you can, really with the same basic ingredients, you can do everything,” Shoseyov said, citing patients who require low fat or low salt foods. “This is going to be also a dramatic change to the supply chain because all these materials have a long shelf life.”

Another group of students produced ice cream and sherbets enriched with protein from fly larva. They said their ice cream has 10% protein and their sherbet has 5% – significantly higher than the standard versions.

“The world is going to a place where food is going to end, so we need to find new sustainable foods or sources of foods,” said Ariel Rudik, who worked on the project.

Although Israel has the same the problems in the food technology industry as in other industries – “being small, not in a common market at least not with its neighbors” – European and American markets love these products and accept Israeli innovations, Froy said.

“We’ve come to a conclusion that joining forces together entrepreneurs, investors, academia, food industry, new ideas that’s what makes us the Start-Up Nation.”

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