A grape that is firmly attached to its vine is not just a synonym for delicious fruit or irresistible wine. It also means millions of dollars. This is the view of Avance Biotechnologies, a Chilean company that researches, develops and sells state-of-the-art biotechnology that has been recognized by national businesses and is exported to Latin America and Europe.
Thus, they created a substance in their laboratories that is harmless to human beings and can be applied on all types of grapes, though especially those producing bunches with a greater tendency toward spontaneous shedding of the fruit, a characteristic that is present in around one third of those grown in the country.
Sprayed 10 days before harvest, the liquid manages to reduce fruit shedding from 12% to 1%. This effect, which would seem magical to the naked eye, earned it the national Avonni Prize in the category of sciences, which is awarded by the nonprofit institution Foro Innovación, together with the communications media, state institutions and the private sector.
The miraculous Sunken – the trade name of the product in question – is part of the portfolio that Avance Biotechnologies has been nourishing since its creation at the beginning of the decade, which already includes fertilizers, fungicides and germicides, a special paint to protect pruning cuts and grafts and a surfactant that has been successfully tested on cherries.
“Our intention is to transcend with what we do; to see the fruit in the stomach and not just hanging from the tree,” comments engineer Juan Rencoret, who leads Avance Biotechnologies’s multidisciplinary team along with the chemist Mario Reyes, who is in charge of the research and development department.
Diversification and constancy
The modus operandi of the company, which is headquartered in an industrial area in northern Santiago, has allowed it to expand its scope of action beyond the rural sector to areas like cosmetics or mining. They listen to all requirements, without caring about their nature or how insane they might sound, as they assume that each one might translate into a new idea.
The firm’s executives say that this was the case with a request to optimize the collection of snail slime, a very popular ingredient in beauty creams. Avance Biotechnologies created a process to take maximum advantage of the key protein. However, its presentation continued to be an impediment for export. What was the solution? It was dehydrated and now the secretion is exported as a pellet.
“Unlike other laboratories, our taxi meter only begins to run from the moment that we show clients the prototype that they have in mind. And when they are unable to pay, because they often think from the outset that we will never manage it, then we evaluate a relaunch or applying it to an orphan design,” comments Mario Reyes.
The company has also experimented with one of the most abundant raw materials in Chile, copper, creating a process to reduce it to 0.2 micrometers (microns) and turning it into an impalpable nontoxic dust that is used for its germicidal potential in the medical and textile industries, as well as in the defense and electronics sectors.
“All of these developments were very complex, basically because they were new and efficient products without an impact on the environment or people, from their conception to use, in processes that involved all of the people in the company and prompted us to adopt a discipline of constant learning,” they reflect.