Students Michaela Andrews and Vang Xiong made an important discovery when they were researching breadfruit, a superfood found in Caribbean nations that can be made into a gluten-free flour after it’s shredded and dried.
Because of her interest in developmental engineering, Andrews said she jumped at the opportunity to work on the breadfruit project with Dr. Camille George, vice-provost and engineering associate professor at the University of St. Thomas.
George has been studying breadfruit for several years and has developed a system to air dry breadfruit shreds using materials readily available on island nations without using energy such as ovens or fans, as costs can be high and electricity sporadic.
Andrews and Xiong, alongside George, researched how humidity, temperature and air velocity affect the drying of breadfruit, and through testing, determined that temperature was the main factor affecting the drying rate.
For their research work, they were invited to accompany George to the 2015 International Breadfruit Conference in Trinidad. They learned that many Caribbean islands are using breadfruit to become less dependent on food imports.
The conference included a field trip to a model farm and the University of the West Indies Food Science and Technology Lab. The students also spent a morning visiting fabric and hardware stores to see what materials would be available if drying trays were manufactured on-site.