Grass, Is known to be fed to animals and not human beings. So imagine it now been a flour that can be used to cook ugali.
Ugali from grass, sounds weird and also interesting. It might be a new item in our supermarkets in the coming years.
Imagine cooking and eating ugali from grass? well it might be possible. As a team from Kabarak University have come up with an innovative idea to fight hunger using grass.
The students convert grass into edible starch flour that can be used to make ugali and porridge.
Faith Wandia, is the brains behind such an innovative idea. She came up with the idea two years ago and she is now making it real.
She later included 3 other students, Salome Njeri, Bahati Innocent, and Edgar Ruto. Together they embarked on research and were able to crack its code this year.
Faith told Nation Africa, that the increase inn the price of maize flour in the country forced them to come up with anew solution. they ended up with a project of converting non-food plant material into food.
She said they opted to venture into converting cellulose contained in grass into starch that is good for human consumption.
” last year , maize flour used to retail between sh40 to sh55 per kg, and it shot up this year to sh90 up to sh120 per kg. As innovators, we decided to come up with a project that would make food affordable and save people from dying of hunger,” she said.
Ms. Wandia says they opted for grass which grows on 50-60% of the total surface area of the earth.
They settled on drought resistant Bermuda grass and Ryegrass, which only takes 2 months to grow.
After the grass is harvested, the innovators wash it to remove contamination, dry it and grind it into powder before adding enzymes to break down the cellulose into starch.
“Grass is the same family as maize therefore the starch is identical. At first we were doing a trial and error to see what would work. Sometimes we ended up having glucose instead of starch and we had to start again. The cost of purchasing the enzymes and shipping was high,” she said.
she also says that their goal is to reduce the number of people going to bed hungry from 10% to 3% by 2030. they also want to see a drop in deaths from hunger per year by 65%.
“When I started this project, I had goals that I wanted to achieve. I am excited because I know this products will save live,” she said.
According to Innocent, a member of the innovative team, human beings cannot digest grass because they don’t have enzymes in the gastrointestinal track to break down the cellulose into starch.
Furthermore he adds that at the laboratory, they have necessary the temperature pressure and conditions for the reaction to occur after adding the enzyme which converts it to amylose, a starch that is similar to the one found in maize.
Additionally, he says once the reaction is complete, the final product has to pass the iodine test to ascertain that its starch.
At first, Innocent had his doubts on whether the project would work but after, he sat down and reassessed it.
“We approached our lectures and with their help and guidance, we solved the puzzle,” he said.
“We are now waiting for a certificate from the Kenya Bureau of Standards to clear the product fit for human consumption before we can begin large scale production.” he added
Mr. Wilson Balongo, the innovation and business incubation coordinator at the institution said the innovation will promote grass farming , help solve the unemployment in the country, and also develop the country’s economy.
He also says as an institution, they have already started the process of patenting the project at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute to protect industrial intellectual property rights.
He urges other innovators and friends or partners who are interested in innovation to join them.
If approved by the medics and KEBS for commercialization, the item will be sold for sh35 per kilogram.