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Microbial ecology approaches applied to alcoholic fermentation in the wine and fuel ethanol industries

Grant number: 23/14862-6
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: February 01, 2024 - January 31, 2026
Field of knowledge:Engineering - Chemical Engineering - Chemical Process Industries
Mobility Program: SPRINT - Projetos de pesquisa - Mobilidade
Principal Investigator:Andreas Karoly Gombert
Grantee:Andreas Karoly Gombert
Principal researcher abroad: MATHABATHA EVODIA SETATI
Institution abroad: Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Host Institution: Faculdade de Engenharia de Alimentos (FEA). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:22/15256-0 - Towards understanding the microbial ecology of alcoholic fermentations in sugarcane biorefineries, AP.BIOEN.R


A total of three exchange activities are planned for this proposal: two missions from the Brazilian (BR) team to the South African (SA) partner institution and one mission (involving two researchers) from the SA team to the BR partner institution. The research project funded by FAPESP, involved in this proposal, is entitled "Towards understanding the microbial ecology of alcoholic fermentations in sugarcane biorefineries" ( Since the aim of the project is to better understand the alcoholic fermentation's microbiome and how yeast and contaminating bacterial species interact with one another, the exchange activities will clearly benefit the project, because the SA research team, led by Profs. Evodia Setati and Florian Bauer at Stellenbosch University (SU), has for several years worked on the microbial ecology of wine alcoholic fermentation. During this period, they applied microbial ecology theory and methods, aiming at unraveling some of the mechanisms involved in the interactions among yeast and other microorganisms that are naturally part of the wine fermentation microbiome. The research group at SU developed some sophisticated experimental tools to investigate the wine microbiome, such as a membrane bioreactor system which enables the co-cultivation of different species with or without physical contact, which is relevant to understand how far physical contact between cells is necessary for some of the microbial interactions.The similarities between alcoholic fermentations used to produce wine and those used to produce fuel ethanol (or bioethanol) are:a1) The yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the predominant microorganism and converts sugars into ethanol, leading to final ethanol levels around 12% (v/v);a2) Other species, yeast and bacterial, are also found in these environments, performing wanted and unwanted processes;a3) Different lactic acid bacteria are commonly found in both environments).There are also some important differences between these two systems, listed below:b1) The S. cerevisiae strains that persist and dominate in these processes are not the same;b2) The formation of aroma compounds plays a crucial role in winemaking, but not in bioethanol production;b3) The ethanol yield on sugar is the most important process indicator in the case of bioethanol production, which is not the case in wine production; b4) Different wine profiles can be obtained by inoculating the process with different microbial strains (also non-Saccharomyces or non-yeast), a practice which is not used in bioethanol production, where only some selected S. cerevisiae strains are inoculated (at least so far).The overall aim of this project is to deepen our knowledge about the microbial ecology of alcoholic fermentation, both in the processes used in sugarcane biorefineries in BR to produce fuel ethanol, and in the processes used in SA for the production of wine.By the end of the project, it is envisaged that the following milestones will have been reached: 1) Carrying out two missions from BR to SA (one of them also includes a visit to a university in Botswana), by a BR researcher, and a mission from SA to BR, by two researchers from that country; 2) Exchange of knowledge about the two processes under study (wine and fuel ethanol production), with knowledge gained about the microbial ecology involved in both; 3) holding lectures at both universities, by visiting researchers; 4) exchange of microbial strains, for future studies; 5) planning and starting to write a mini-review article; 6) planning the development of a collaborative research project, to compete in future joint calls for proposals and/or to carry out student and researcher exchanges; 7) participation in the largest international yeast congress and planning a future congress in BR, in the area of yeast. (AU)

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