December 7, 2022

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Peruvian engineer who invented ‘supercorn’ and created the world’s best whiskey

Alice MedinaThe last of nine siblings, she loved the countryside and buried her hands in the wet earth. I was a six-year-old girl then Her father took her for the first time to the family farm in the Kubisnik district of Cajamarca. There he cultivated starchy corn, a humble and essential grain in the diet of rural communities.

“I didn’t like being at home,” he recalls now at 58. It’s good to go out and plant, it makes me happy to be on the farm. At that age Recognized the challenges of family farming and the conditional profitability of crops. He recognized them, but still could not understand them.

After school, he went to dry crops and bombard. He played with crowns. An afternoon He promised his father that he would go to university to rebuild the landscape.

“Of course it’s a cliché, but I had a dream,” says more than half a century later, an agricultural engineer, researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation and inventor of the purple corn variety. India 601A genetically enhanced product that he worked on for thirteen years Thanks to years and a whiskey the world knew.

It seems like a symbol, but it is a different type: it has a body loaded with high nutritional value and natural pigment or anthocyanin, which allows us to use the cob, panca or grain without discarding it. “Strictly speaking, being more Anthocyanins This means more raw material and, with it, added value for producers”, notes MedinaMaster in Planning for Development.

To get this ‘supercorn’, it took 42 tests at the company’s testing facility where he works.. An educator of the National Maize and Wheat Program, in principle, has combined two grains – one from Ankash and the other from Cajamarca – to grow them in a plot where they can reproduce independently.

“Corn is free-pollinating, so they mix quickly,” says the engineer. Then the team went through refactoring processes to get the best results and we went into the field to compare them with others. It is hard and inspiring work.

A new variety of corn with high commercial potential—there are more than 50 in the country—has emerged: Officially initiated at the beginning of the second millennium and recorded in the Register of Cultivations. From 2016 to 2019, studies focused entirely on anthocyanin, a chemical preservative agent that can replace synthetic dyes.

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Scientific evidence changed agriculture in the region: certified seed India 601 It includes the fields of Cajamarca—today it is cultivated in 12 of the 13 provinces—; It reached Ancash, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Pasco, Apurimac, Huancavelica, and Lima; and taking exports to global markets.

The ‘supercorn’, heralded as the seed of the bicentennial, produced it too Alice Medina Recognized by the College of Engineers and the Government of Chile for its contribution to agricultural innovation. Lima-based transnational corporations began extracting the pigment and receiving it for shipment to the United States, Japan, and Spain.

Another percent was earmarked for the cosmetic industry and the baking process – for kneading biscuits and panettones – but there was no record in the alcoholic beverages category as of June 2019 when the engineer met. Michael GurillaAn American living in Lurin, he worked with Andean grains in his distillery.

It was during the Latin American corn meeting that Medina exposed his discovery.

Guerilla, a fan of Valetodo and owner of the Don Michel factory, interviewed the producers and began negotiations for coarse flour from INIA 601. Then he left for the experiment. Four months later, he obtained a bourbon-style distillate, which he christened Black whiskey, Recognized as the best in the world Tournament of Spirits 2022, held in New York.

Brad Jabe, a journalist specializing in spirits, praised this drink based on ‘super corn’ (60%), national wheat (30%) and malted barley. The Black whiskey It is now present in ten countries including Taiwan, Australia, Germany, England, Spain, USA, Canada, Mexico, Poland; It is also tasted at select restaurants such as Central, Raphael, La Mar and Astrid&Gaston.

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But very few tasters pay attention to the engineering behind distillation.

Medina He wears a shirt and speaks slowly. With the latest recognition, it aims for the sustainable development of Cajamarca’s communities, but above all to see more women in academia in a country with the highest proportion of female engineers graduating in Latin America.

This Andean grain also aims to enter the pharmaceutical sector: “This is not a distant dream, what happened to whiskey will have consequences for consumers, authorities and traders who bet on this product”.

Raised among grasslands, the researcher is immersed in the search for alternative technologies against insects – for example, oil against earworm – and is involved in determining the yield and anthocyanin content in INIA 601 by exposing its seeds to magnetic fields. Autonomous University of Chota.

“Producers extracting anthocyanins locally and exporting them from here will affect their income,” Medina projects. She doesn’t remember gender inequality ever touching her. “Definitely difficulties or some experiences tried to limit me,” he says on the other end of the phone on Saturday afternoon. But I’ve already forgotten them.”.

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