Soy Milk Solutions to Empower Women & End Hunger!
By Miranda Grizio, IFT
Promise Silesi and helper grinding soaked soybeans in Chiuzila, Malawi (Photo Credit Palladium Int’l)
Three small-scale soy processing systems—the SoyCow, VitaGoat, and SoyaKit—are bringing fresh, protein-rich soy milk to schools, refugee camps, and other high-need areas around the world, from North Korea to Malawi. They are also creating new income streams for rural microentrepreneurs.
In 2000, former telecommunications software executive Hart Jansson founded Malnutrition Matters, a Canadian nonprofit organization aimed at tackling malnutrition. The organization focused on soy-based solutions—for many reasons. Advantages of the soybean include its high-quality protein, adaptability to tropical environments, and versatility as a dairy substitute.
Of the world’s estimated 768 million people facing hunger, approximately 425 million (55%) live in Asia and 278 million (36%) in Africa. While the soybean has long been a staple in most Asian countries, it is a much newer crop in Africa. However, consumer research in Africa shows that many consumers have used soy milk and that acceptability is high when they understand its nutritional benefits. Soy milk can also be flavored according to local preferences and is relatively low in cost compared with dairy, which is the most expensive food group in all sub-regions of Africa.
A Look at the Systems
Transforming soybeans into a beverage is no easy feat. It requires steps such as overnight soaking, heat treatment to inactivate trypsin inhibitors (which impede protein digestion and absorption) and lipoxygenases (which cause off-flavors), and filtration of the insoluble fiber (the okara).
To simplify this process, Malnutrition Matters developed and launched the SoyCow, a small-scale soy system now available in several models. Depending on the model, the SoyCow has a capacity of 35–80 L of soy milk per hour, with a price range of $5,900 to $11,900 (Malnutrition Matters 2020).
“While the soybean has long been a staple in most Asian countries, it is a much newer crop in Africa.”
One model, the SoyCow E, includes an electric grinder, electric boiler, pressure cooker, manual filter press, refractometer, and an operating manual with recipes (Specification Sheet). The SoyCow M, by contrast, has a multi-fuel boiler that can burn wood, coal, gas, or other biomass like coconut shells and corncobs (Specification Sheet.).
When it became clear the SoyCow’s need for sufficient and reliable electricity could limit widespread adoption, the organization added the VitaGoat to its lineup. With a capacity of 30–35 L per hour, the VitaGoat uses the multi-fuel boiler and a pedal-driven grinder—making it a fully non-electric system for $5,900 (Malnutrition Matters 2020).
Although these systems were primarily designed to convert soybeans into soy milk and derivative products like soy sour milk, soy yogurt, and tofu, they can also process grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits to make a wide variety of products, from maize flour to peanut butter to jam.
With 320 SoyCow and VitaGoat systems deployed globally through partnerships with governmental, nongovernmental, and private organizations, Malnutrition Matters is now focusing on expanding its latest innovation—the SoyaKit.
Smaller still, the SoyaKit is a manually operated soy system (starting at $180 and with a capacity of 7 L per hour) for use by households and microenterprises. So far, Malnutrition Matters has deployed 3,077 SoyaKits, all in sub-Saharan Africa, with most in Malawi. There is also a SoyaKit project in Kenya planned for this year.
Malnutrition Matters’ innovative food processing systems are providing access to improved nutrition and increased income where they are needed most, with 260,000 continuous beneficiaries and more to come.
About Malnutrition Matters
Malnutrition Matters is a Canadian-registered, non-profit organization, dedicated to providing sustainable low-cost food technology solutions for malnutrition, primarily by using soya, but also cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables. The technologies offered are platforms for micro-enterprise that enable a sustainable approach: income is earned by women and youth while affordable, nutrient-dense food is provided locally. Use of local produce and plant-based protein enable 5 to 10 times less energy, land and water use compared to animal-based proteins.
About the Author
Miranda Grizio is a member of Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and a case study writer for IFT’s Food Science for Relief and Development Program (email@example.com).
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