30 / April / 2020 - Slovak University of Agriculture, Nitra, Slovakia , Slovakia
My STSM took place at the Institution Slovak University of Agriculture, Nitra, Slovakia. It lasted from 03th to 17th February, 2020, so I stayed in Nitra for about two weeks. I must begin by saying for me it was a rare chance, speaking of the work that has been done, the things I've seen and learned, and also about the huge amount of kind people I have had the chance to meet, in a very short time. Sometimes, life is truly amazing! You'll find great chocolate in Slovakia. I'd say the chocolate making is rather like an art here, so tasty it is, take it in small pieces, or as hot chocolate, it's just great look and delicious taste!
Speaking about this great experience, I will mention for the beginning that the “Slovak University of Agriculture” (SUA) from Nitra is the only agricultural university in Slovakia. That could explain also the huge investments you can see materialized alI over the University, and especially in all the Agrobiotech Center, where your eyes will be “immersed” in generous spaces and in fully equipped labs, in last generation equipment which you may have maybe once in a lifetime chance to see at work, like electronic nose or Rheofermentometer, etc.
The field of the research was amaranth. I've spent my time here working as a team with Svetlana Mykolenko, a highly skilled professional from Ukraine, under the kind and dedicated supervision of Dr. Tatiana Bojnanska, at the AgroBioTech Center, and also at the Department of Technology and Quality of Plant Products (FBFS), where we were guests, basically. These people (from the department) are great in making foreigners feel like at home. I will point the whole team starting with the Head of the Department and continuing with Ing. Eva Ivanisova, who I'd describe as the perfect host (we have used practically her lab), then Ing. Adriana Handzušová, always very kind, who also delighted us with rare applications of functional food “on the way”. The rest of the team was also very kind and really ready to help or give us a hand with our project. Dr. Vladimir Vietoris, a stunning intelligence, kindly explained us the applications of three rare instruments they have on the department, which are used for the sensorial analysis of food products: electronic eye, nose and tongue. The combination of these three equipments (from Alpha Mos) is to be found together in just 5 places in the world and the Department of Technology and Quality of Plant Products of SUA Nitra is one of them. I will describe them quickly for the further use of future applicants, even if these equipments were not directly part of the work we've done there, I gathered this interesting information as another huge PLUS of the Nitra experience!
The first one, electronic eye, “Iris”, characterizes the visual aspect of food products, and provides also shapes analysis, colours analysis, basically it is an easy and fast-to-use tool which allows to get reliable, objective and detailed measurements, basically precious data to produce a positive perception of the visual quality among consumers, also useful for product development. Another equipment, the electronic tongue enables for example making products development easier by characterizing their taste. We have seen basically “at work“ “Heracles”, from the same company, Alpha Mos, which is the electronic nose, used to get objective and reliable measurements in smell testing. Its applications allow for example guaranteeing the quality and conformity of food products among consumers, or to detect fraud and counterfeiting .
They are also to be mentioned, as great people I've met or known, Dr. Andrea Hricova, from the Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology (Plant Science and Biodiversity Center). I must say meeting her was an experience in itself, she's absolutely one of the smartest persons I've ever met, and I'll also add two other special individuals I've met during this great life experience, Svetlana, on one hand, plus another great character, the smart, ambitious, and hard working PhD student, Ivona, from Serbia, from the Chemistry Department, I want just to mention her humanity and warm welcome and approach to us as visitors, and also her Supervisor's responsibility. The PhD student Patricia, from the department FBFS is another intuitive character, aimed by the consumers rights, who's working on double standards which we basically daily face in our lives, she was another great person we've encountered in our short Slovak stay.
I applied for this STSM since I am interested in the use and behaviour of sourdough and in the development and preparation of suitable composite flours and their comprehensive technological assessment for bakery, and also in a further comprehension through research of all what means added nutritional value in the bakery products. The STSM purpose was research regarding amaranth, and it’s use to enrich the bread (rheological properties, nutritional and sensory properties), of dough enriched with amaranth, and also basic bakery test. As I have already mentioned, the work was coordinated and kindly supported by Dr. Tatiana Bojnanska, our host, and by her team. For me, it meant other added accomplishments, since I also had the opportunity to further approach other high nutritional added value ingredients which can be used in the bakery process: Sourdough traditional starters and broccoli germs.
The grain amaranth (Amaranthus spp.), due to the unique seed composition, represents an interesting alternative material in cereal based composite flours for breadmaking purposes (Schnetzler and Breene, 1994; Berghofer and Schoenlechner, 2002; Bavec and Bavec, 2006). It became of great interest in the last decades for scientists, in Europe too. In comparison to cereal crops, Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.) grain features high nutrition value (Vavreinová, 1997; Jarošová et al., 1997). Also, seeds of amaranth plants contain high portion of amino essential acids - especially LYS (7.59 g.kg-1 of dry matter), but also GLX, ASX, LEU, ARG, GLY and SER. Amaranth protein digestibility reach about 80 % which is very high value when compared to other crops – maize (45 %), wheat (60 %), soya bean (68 %) and products - cow milk (72 %), (Vietmeyer,1982; Bressani,1992). According to Michalová (1999) amaranth protein composition is near to the ideal protein recommended by FAO / WHO / UNU (1973). Lysine content in amaranth wholemeal flour is app. trice higher compared to wheat flour (Buchtová et al.,1996). The amino acid content in Amaranth seeds (Amaranthus sp.) Jiří Peterka et al, Zemědělská fakulta, Studentská 13, 370 01 České Budějovice, Czech Republic,- at the 5th International Symposium of the European Amaranth Association, Nitra, 2008). From the last year’s initiatives in Europe, which involve also my country, Romania, I would like to mention for example the Protein2Foodproject, a Horizon 2020 project, which is basically gathering researchers, producers and other interested parties, being focused on amaranth and quinoa.
We have worked with four varieties of amaranth, originally from Ukraine, varieties which were kindly brought to Slovakia by the other participant in this STSM, Svetlana. I will describe the steps we've made in this team work. The determination of the rheological properties of dough with 15% of amaranth addition has been done, using Rheofermentometer and Mixolab equipment and we also did bakery test. We have prepared the various samples using Chopin Mill from Chopin Technologies. We have subsequently used in our work the Rheofermentometer, a last generation equipment which measures the characteristics of dough during proofing (the dough development, the production of gas due to yeast action, the porosity of the dough, the tolerance of the dough during proofing. In the literature, Chopin Rheofermentometer is described as the unique device which provides information about dough properties that traditionally have been obtained by employing several different tests, i.e. by combination of at least two analyses such are Maturograph and Fermentograph, allowing evaluation of flour fermentation capacity, yeast activity and indirectly indicates the quality of gluten complex proteins. Moreover, the results obtained, indirectly correlates with the Farinograph measurements.
The Role of Empirical Rheology in Flour Quality Control, T. Dapcevic Hadnadev, M. Pojić, M. Hadnadev, A. M Torbica, in Wide Spectra of Quality Control, p.340 (2011) The Mixolab, on the other hand, is used to characterize the rheological behaviour of dough subjected to a dual mixing and temperature constraint, allowing study of rheological and enzymatic parameters: dough rheological characteristics (development time, hydration capacity, etc.), protein reduction, enzymatic activity, gelatinization and gelling of starch. Rheological properties of dough were monitored in our case by using Mixolab 2 (Chopin Tecnologies), applying the protocols “Chopin S” and “Chopin +”. The international standard ICC-Standard Method no. 173, a protocol for complete characterization of flours, was used, and a simplified graphic interpretation performed in our work.
We prepared extracts for the determination of the biological activity of the amaranth, and determine dry matter content, crude protein content, ash content, and fat content in the amaranth samples, this part of the work being made at the Department of technology and quality of plant products. We continued the work by determining the antioxidant activity (using DPPH method), the total polyphenol and phenolic acid content in the amaranth extracts at the Department of Tecnology and AgroBioTech Research center). At the end of Rheofermentometer measurement, the dough was placed in the oven (MIWE Condo), using the baking mode P4 and the temperatures: 180 0 C-7', 200 0 C-20', and 160 0 C-13'. Subsequently, the experimental loaf was analyzed: weight, aw, moisture, photo, bread volume was measured using Volume meter Volscan Profiler (Stable Micro Systems, Surrey, England): analysis (volume, specific volume, volume-yield, etc, aspect ratio of middle slice, etc.
Another step in our work was preparing extracts for the biological activity of amaranth, and also determination of the dry matter content, crude protein content, ash content, fat content, in the loafs, having 15% of amaranth addition, as well as the antioxidant activity (DPPH method), total polyphenol and phenolic acid content in loafs with 15% amaranth addition. The rest of the experience, the one of the eyes and of the heart, I will explain through pictures, which will better replace words, sometimes too poor to spell the beauty of images, or the kindness of people.
A very special thank to the special people who kindly advised me, or gave me their support, from USAMV Cluj Napoca and from IATA, Valencia.
I want to thank the SOURDOMICS network and to the magnificent Sourdomics team who was there, very human, present and proactive, every single time I needed them, and to the COST Action CA 18101 SOURDOMICS for providing such opportunities to young scientists. I highly recommend STSM’s to all young researches doubting whether to sign up, both personally and professionally. If I get a chance again, I will surely apply for the STSM grant, TS or for other activities!