Friday 8th of June – Saint Hyacinthe

Written by: Zulhaj Rizki

It was around 8 in the morning and we are all ready to leave. Everyone finished their breakfast and small conversations about how our night was heard almost everywhere. Yeah, we just spent a night in the best accommodation in the trip. We were all prepared for a walk to our next destination, the Food Research and Development Center in Saint Hyacinthe. In fact, we only walked a few minutes and a classic yellow bus has been waiting for us. (Change of plans, good news for us, no morning exercise for today 😊) So here we go in a classic school bus-like to our next destination.

We were all seated in a parliament-like room; including microphones on the tables, and it will be perfect. The director of FRDC Saint Hyacinthe, Sonia Ringuette, opened the activities of today. In her speech, she introduced the focus of this research center. This includes the dairy products, preservations, nutrition, quality and also processes. Next to that she also introduced the facilities and resources that they have. “Our people is our social capital”. That was one of her quotes that implies every scientist working there is valuable. The opening speech was concluded by their commercialization officer, Normand Robert, who is responsible for the knowledge transfer and commercialization of their research  to industry. A small formulation,

After that, it was our turn to present ourselves. Started by an overview of our university and more specifically our beloved group, FPE, presented by Remko. A very brief yet comprehensive sentence from Remko that explain our activities (the PhD trip). “We present, we listen, we visit facilities, and we also enjoy food”

Following Remko’s presentation, our fellow PhDs presented our research by cluster. Jun started the presentation by introducing our drying group followed by Andrea, Dimitri and Juliana, Nynke and Floor, Pina and Emma. After those presentations we had a quite long poster session (of course we had lunch in between).

Our presentations were done, poster s ession was also done, then it was time to hear the presentations from the FRDC. However, they did not do it in the conventional way by just presenting in the room. They arranged the presentations in combination with the facility tour. So the presentations themselves were done in their own workspace, which I personally liked very much and appreciated their effort (I think the other participants shared the same opinion 😊).

We split into three groups, based on which group we were in, the order of visits altered. We visited their pilot plant facilities which consist of three main parts: dairy processing, general processes, and biotechnology. We found some cool equipment which we may not find in other places, such as the ultra sound cutter, Pulse Electric Field equipment and also the smoking chamber. Another important point related to their pilot plant facilities is that these facilities can also be used by small to medium enterprises to do both their research and production. During our visit, we also saw few people working while producing their products.

Our visit continued to the sensory department where we performed a simple triangular test for maple syrups. So, we needed to distinguish which sample is the new sample with addition of a new flavour. Who got a ‘Bravo’ ?

Afterwards, we visited groups which focus on rheology, analytical chemistry, viral genomic and also processing. Next to that, we also visited a facility for in vitro digestion which might be very interesting for our digestion cluster. They do a more or less similar approach by having series of bioreactors. In addition, they have a cool stomach-shape reactor which can be coupled with a machine that mimics the mechanic process in the stomach. 

Other research they do that relates to our group is their work in plant proteins. They explore various plant proteins; their latest research is about canary seeds which has never been used as human nutrition before. However, this research may raise another problem related to new allergenic compounds.

Our visit in FRDC was closed by a group picture.

As a closure of today’s program, we visited a house factory of the infamous maple syrup. And we were able to taste the original maple sap, yeah… It was amazing to listen to their presentation about maple syrup production and how they adapted the production with technology. The sap collecting is no longer done with the conventional tap and bucket but by using tubes connected with a vacuum pump. Besides, the evaporation times were shortened by concentrating the juice using reverse osmosis. And the visit was concluded by having a diner there. And of course we did not miss the various deserts based on maple syrup. Enough sweet for today and lets enjoy the last night in our fancy hotel.