The Department of Agriculture at the university of Zululand hosted a Site Visit with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs (KZN-EDTEA) on the progress update for a UNIZULU Technology Transfer Fund Project. This project is led by Prof G.E. Zharare a lecturer and a Plant scientist. The other members involved in the project are Thulani Nxumalo (Agronomist and Agricultural Advisor stationed in Jozini), George Wilsenach a lecturer and Agribusiness specialist in the department of Agriculture in UNIZULU. This venture is on commercialization of vegetable oils from fruits of two similar plants, Strychnos madagascariensis (uMkwakwa) and Strychnos pungens. The project received funds from the Department of economic development as seed money.
Prof Bryon Brown, the Director in the Research office at UNIZULU was in attendance as well as the deputy dean for Faculty of Science , Agriculture and Engineering Prof Inocent Moyo and Bonisiwe Ndlovu the officer for IP, Innovation & Funding.
Prof Zharare highlighted the background of the project, and the progress that has been achieved thus far. The background included the possible methods of oil extraction from the seed coat that surrounds the seeds and the problems that need to be solved to facilitate the commercialization of oil extraction from the two plants.
The methods of extraction involve drying the seeds from which the skin will be separated from the seeds and oil extracted from the seeds by pressing using a screw press or by solvent methods. Alternatively, the skin it scraped off from wet seeds into a puree which is then dried off and oil is extracted from the dried puree by solvent or by pressing.
Solvent extraction pathway
Since the oil has not been extracted before, Prof Zharare and his team are working on optimising the extraction protocols for the oils, and on potential uses of the oils. Mangosuthu University of Technology’s TIA technology station is collaborating with the team on assessing the uses of the soils.
The team is also working on establishing vegetative propagation of the plants to facilitate establishment of plantations of plants with the desirable traits for oil production.
Prof Zhara articulated that the project is to benefit the local community in
uMkhanyakude district where there is an abundance of Strychnos madagascariensis. “The intention is to eventually set up an oil extraction plant in uMkhanyakude district and to market the oil or products from the oil on benefit sharing basis whereby the locals will act as harvesters of the fruits or out growers of the plants. ”Prof Zharare said,
The meeting come to an end with a visit to the lab where experiments are being conducted to optimize the protocols for pre-extraction and extraction processes.
- Precious Shamase