New SARChI chairs in AgriSciences focus on meat and wine quality

Wine and meat are the respective focusses of two research chairs to which scientists of the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University have recently been appointed, as part of the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI).

Prof Florian Bauer (credit Engela Duvenhage)

Prof Florian Bauer (credit Engela Duvenhage)

Prof Florian Bauer of the Institute for Wine Biotechnology has been appointed as the SARChI Chair in Integrated Wine Sciences, while the SARChI Chair in Meat Sciences: Genomics to Nutrinomics has been awarded jointly to Prof Louw Hoffmann of the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Animal Sciences, and Prof Voster Muchenje of the University of Fort Hare.

The SARChI programme is funded by the national Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation. The Programme aims to strengthen and improve research and innovation capacity at universities and to ensure high quality postgraduate students, research, and innovation outputs.

Ten other SARChI Research Chairs have in recent years been awarded to experts at Stellenbosch University. Two of these are also based in the Faculty of AgriSciences: the SARChI chair in the Genetic Tailoring of Biopolymers of Prof Jens Kossman in the Institute for Plant Biotechnology in the Department of Genetics; and the SARChI Research Chair in Postharvest Technology of Prof Linus Opara in the Department of Horticultural Sciences.

Wine research to focus on yeasts

According to Prof Florian Bauer, work being done through his Chair will focus on developing novel approaches to wine science. “Our work will specifically focus on the microbiological processes that can be used by industry to turn natural raw materials such as grape juice into value added products such as wine,” he added.

An emphasis will be placed on the use of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a well established scientific model organism that is often used by evolutionary, cellular and molecular biologists. Prof Bauer’s team will link the unique insights generated through system-wide approaches to the industrial processes that depend on this yeast as the main fermenting agent.

This research chair will contribute to the already sterling industry supported work being done by the team of researchers at the Institute of Wine Biotechnology and the Department of Viticulture and Oenology.

Prof Bauer, who hails from Germany, has been a researcher at Stellenbosch University since 1993. He holds two patents, one of which is for a technique to help prevent protein haze in wine.

He is member of the editorial boards of international journals such as Applied and Environmental Microbiology, has been a keynote speaker at international conferences, is a past and current member of the scientific boards of international conferences such as the 26th International Conference of Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology 2013, and is a representative on the International Commission on Yeast (ICY).

Meat scientists join forces

Through the SARChI Chair in Meat Sciences: Genomics to Nutrinomics, Stellenbosch University meat scientists are joining forces with the University of Fort Hare to investigate the impact of environmental factors on the quality of fresh and processed meat products.

Prof Louw Hofffman (Credit Engela Duvenhage)

Prof Louw Hoffman (Credit Engela Duvenhage)

Prof Louw Hoffman of the SU Department of Animal Sciences will lead the endeavours of the Chair together with co-chair Prof Voster Muchenje of the University of Fort Hare. Prof Muchenje studies how the welfare of animals in terms of genomics and the environment influence the quality and nutritional value of meat.

“Farmed species, wild animals, wild fowl and various fish species will be investigated,” adds Prof Hoffman of the Department of Animal Sciences, who is the only scientist in the world who conducts research on the quality of African game meat.

Prof Hoffman started his research career in aquaculture. Since 2000, he focuses on factors that influence the quality of fresh meat of species such as ostrich, kudu, warthog, crocodile, Egyptian geese and guinea fowl.

This year he became the first South African to receive the International Lectureship Award from the leading American Meat Science Association (AMSA). Research he has been involved in recently has led to a parliamentary inquiry into standards, mislabelling and other fraudulent activities in the local meat industry.

This former recipient of the South African Animal Science Society’s silver medal for research recently wrote both chapters on exotic animal production and meat in the new updated Meat Science Encyclopaedia.