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Extracting maximum value from the Moringa plant

- Deborah Minors

Professor Luke Chimuka in the School of Chemistry developed a method to produce an extract from the Moringa plant through pressurised hot water extraction.

The extract, which is more environmentally friendly and less potentially hazardous to human beings, may be used as an additive in foods, beverages and cosmetic products, and as a dietary supplement.

The pressurised hot water extraction technology alleviates the issues associated with conventional extraction techniques - these require high solvent concentrations using organic solvents, which are pollutants and may threaten human health. Chimuka’s technology produces an extract that is environmentally friendly and safe for human consumption.

The Moringa project is a partnership between the Phedisanang community, which produces Moringa powder; the Department of Science and Technology, which funded the community; and Wits, which developed the extraction technology.

Prize-winning Extra Green

Funding from the Technology Innovation Agency to the Wits Seed Fund enabled Chimuka to produce samples of Moringa yoghurt and mineral water, and undertake preliminary consumer acceptance research. This provided momentum to enter the 2015 Gauteng Accelerator Programme BioScience Business Plan competition. The Moringa extract business, dubbed Extra Green, won first prize. The research team is now embarking on further market testing with the intention to establish a joint venture between Wits and the Phedisanang community.

Two funders have invited proposals to explore the commercialisation potential of the technology through the design and construction of a pilot plant. Here extraction can be tested at higher volumes and the commercial viability of the product assessed. Should these efforts succeed the impact will be evident in the production of sophisticated food and supplement products for consumers. These products contain the nutritional properties of Maringa but not the unpleasant taste. Furthermore, they are made using environmentally sound processes. The communities producing Moringa leaf powder will benefit from increased sales volumes through expanded uses of Moringa.

Read more about research at Wits in Wits Research Matters.