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Fermentation technology is simply the study of the fermentation process, techniques and its application (Jagani et al., 2010).
According to Reece et al., 2014, Fermentation refers to a metabolic process by which organic molecules (normally glucose) are converted into acids, gases, or alcohol in the absence of oxygen.
Fermentation pathways regenerate the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD⁺), which is used in glycolysis to release energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Ganguly, 2013).
The study of fermentation and its practical uses is named zymology and originated in 1856 when French chemist Louis Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation was caused by yeast.
Technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives (Eslamian, 2014).
Types of Fermentation
There are generally two types of fermentation, we have lactic acid fermentation and alcoholic fermentation. In lactic acid fermentation, glucose is initially converted to two molecules of pyruvic acid. Then the pyruvic acid is converted to two molecules of lactic acid. Finally, energy is released in the form of two molecules of ATP (Purves et al., 2009)
For alcoholic fermentation, glucose is initially converted to two molecules of pyruvic acid. Then the two molecules of pyruvic acid are converted to two molecules of acetaldehyde with two molecules of carbon dioxide released. Finally, the two molecules of acetaldehyde are converted to two molecules of ethanol. Energy is also released in the form of two molecules of ATP.
The importance of fermentation to man cannot be overemphasized. This is because fermentation had been known to increase varieties of food products from a single raw material. For example, from fermented cassava, we can get fufu, lafun and garri etc (Flibert et al., 2016).
Fermentation helps in the digestion of food. fermentation is involved in the digestion of foods by breaking down nutrients found in food and by so doing it becomes easier to digest. An example is found in milk sugar (lactose), fermentation breaks it down to simpler sugars (glucose and galactose) (Chilton et al., 2015). Fermentation, through probiotics that are found in fermented foods, helps to reduce digestive problems by increasing the number of good gut bacteria found in the digestive system (Ritchie et al., 2012).
Past Fermentation Technology
From the beginning fermentation had been known to preserve food, this is possible because fermentation is able to increase acid or alcohol content in food and also decrease the amount of activity of water which is responsible for spoilage, this increases the shelf-life of food.
Secondly, Fermentation helps in the removal of toxic materials from raw materials. For example, cyanide is known to be a deadly chemical found in cassava, through fermentation the cyanide content decreases by over 70% through the action of a bacteria named linamarase, the bacteria is produced during fermentation.
In recent days, the use of fermentation to produce antibiotics is not new to us, it involves storing or keeping microorganisms that possess anti-bacterial properties in a large container, where these microorganisms are grown in large quantities, they are then used to make antibiotics.
Fermentation technology in the past was not something easy, for instance, you see people hand grating cassava to be fermented, it takes a lot of energy and stress and it makes the fermentation process slow (Ahmed, 2002). Most times after the cassava are grated they are placed in a cane basket for fermentation to occur (George, 2006).
The disadvantage attached to fermentation technology in the past is that fermentation processes in the past were typically uncontrolled and dependent on micro-organisms from the environment (Gordon et al., 2008). Also making use of the hand like the example given above, hand-grating of cassava can make fermented foods prone to contamination.
Fermentation technology in the past served a lot of people with benefits. In the past served as a substitute for refrigeration or otherwise the safekeeping of food (Martins et al., 2011). Fermentation processes in the past also reduced cost as commonly it decreased the need for cooking and thus fuel requirements (Ali et al., 2012).
Present Fermentation Technology
Fermentation technology practices presently involve the use of a large container which is called a Bioreactor, to store microorganisms to be used for fermentation.
Fermentation is caused by enzymes that are produced by microorganisms (Lagerkvist, 2005). Since micro-organisms are responsible for fermentation, the micro-organisms used for fermentation are grown in a vessel called a “Bioreactor” which provides a suitable environment for the growth of Micro-organisms.
A bioreactor is a specially designed vessel that is built to support the growth of a high concentration of micro-organisms (Jonathan et al., 2006).
The bioreactor is built in such a way that they are able to provide all the basic requirement for microbial growth, these basic requirements include physical requirements such as PH and temperature and chemical requirement such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, potassium etc (Eva et al., 2008).
One interesting thing about the fermentation technology practices of the present is that we have other products aside from food products, an example is the production of antibiotics. Through research, scientists were able to discover that certain microorganisms (mould) could kill some bacteria because it has anti-bacterial properties. The first antibiotic penicillin was created from Penicillium mould which produces an enzyme that is used in the production of the antibiotic penicillin. These microorganisms producing penicillin were kept in a bioreactor to produce more of the penicillin. the penicillin was then separated from the moulds and then finally purified to be used as an antibiotic medicine(Lopez, 2012).
The advantage of using the bioreactor is that products are made on a large scale (Subramaniyam et al., 2012). The rate of contaminations are reduced compared to methods used in the past, and finally, the fermentation processes are highly controlled (Ganguly et al., 2013).
The disadvantage attached to using a bioreactor is that it is expensive, because of the high rate, they are mostly used by industries (Jagani et al., 2010).
Future Fermentation Technology
Futuristic practices of fermentation technology involve the use of genetics. In developed countries, the use of a new bio-technique of recombinant DNA to improve the genetic constitution of the microorganisms is involved. This help in producing super strains of microbes that can enable acceleration of fermentation processes. Also, this provides more efficient utilization of raw materials, and produce better-quality products (Leslie et al., 2016).
In conclusion, fermentation technology is as old as man, it has constantly evolved to satisfy the present needs of man. The development of fermentation technology with the help of recombinant DNA technology proves that fermentation has a longer and brighter future in the service of mankind. it is now covering such important areas as food and medicine.
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