Engineering the Microarchitecture of Amaranth Leaves Post-Harvest to Optimize Nutrient Bioavailability
Wednesday 28th August 2013
Mary Beth Wilson, PhD
Co-Founder of Innovesca and Postdoctoral Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University
Mary Beth Wilson CMU alumni gave a distinguished on Innovesca a food technology company that develops and sells food products with optimized nutrition from underutilized vegetables. While a multitude of plant species with high food value exists throughout the world, many are not farmed at high capacity. For example, amaranth leaves (Amaranthus spp.) are an underutilized superfood found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia, despite being highly concentrated with essential micronutrients. To address this challenge, we have developed a novel and transformative approach to re-engineer the microarchitecture of underutilized leafy vegetables (ULVs) post-harvest using mechanics-based approaches to maximize nutrient release and absorption upon digestion. Through our proprietary process discovery method, we determine the optimal processing of whole foods, with a first focus on amaranth leaves, such that we create an optimized food ingredient with increased nutritional value. This platform technology was developed initially at Carnegie Mellon University and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We believe that our unique mechanics of materials approach offers a unique and robust solution to improving human health and nutrition. In addition, through implementation of this technology, Innovesca aims to expand agricultural productivity through increased demand for amaranth crops, create job opportunities through the establishment of local food processing facilities, and open new global markets for amaranth-based food products.
Mary Beth Wilson is a Co-Founder of Innovesca, a food technology start-up out of Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus. She has a long-standing history with CMU. Mary Beth received her BS in Materials Science & Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon in 2007. After spending a few years pursuing clinical dentistry, she realized her true passion lies in engineering innovative approaches to solving global challenges. Upon this, she returned to Carnegie Mellon and recently completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering, advised by Dr. Philip LeDuc. Her doctoral work focused on engineering the microarchitecture of biological systems to optimize functionality in two systems—3D synthetic vascular networks and underutilized leafy vegetables.
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