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Chile, the first Latin American country to produce wasabi

The plant is grown in very few countries outside of Japan, where a kilogram costs between $ 150 and $ 300, while in California it can be as high as $ 500 a kilo.

8/2/2021

Wasabi production at Cochamó river, Chile.

Due to its pristine waters and low temperature, Cochamó - which in Mapuzungun means “where the waters meet” - is the place chosen to produce wasabi (Japanese wasabia) for the first time in Latin America, one of the most difficult plants to grow in the world. Food innovation that these days has shown progress in its development as there is strong interest from Miami, United States, in buying this product, and in some to distribute it in the market.

The project supported by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) is executed by the Golden Wasabi company, made up of Yonatan Malis, Juan Manuel Tagle, Henry Jürgens and Carlos Videla, partners and friends who love gastronomy and discover new cultures, places and meals through trips to unique places. However, it is the Asian continent that still caught Malis, who decides to install the production in Chile of one of the most emblematic condiments in Japan.

The production of wasabi requires pristine water, low temperatures and a constant flow, conditions that occur naturally in the south of Los Lagos and Aysén, even in the north of Magallanes. "Today, due to the conditions of the Cochamó River basin, it was possible to implement three terraces with capacity for 2,600 plants, additionally, thanks to the support of FIA, another nine terraces will be built that will contribute with a production of 50 kilos per month, thus allowing their exportation" two years from now, ”says Yonatan Malis.

Regarding the process, for the production an in vitro micropropagation method will be used (there are no seeds), which is a biotechnological technique that consists of cultivating plant parts under sterile conditions, which is carried out in a laboratory in Santiago. This allows the multiplication of the shoots, rooting of these and acclimatization of the seedlings, to later be transplanted and cultivated directly on the terraces, where the plants adapt to conditions with water at low temperatures.

It should be mentioned that currently, due to the lack of "true" wasabi, substitutes for these are marketed, which do not have the characteristics of flavor, consistency and antimicrobial properties of the original wasabi, and that it comes from the root of the plant, leaving as by-products the stem and leaves. The opportunity arises, in that the latter two have properties similar to the root, with respect to their antimicrobial properties.

Innovation

Due to its high impact on regional agriculture, also facilitating the opening of new markets, the team applied to the 2019 National Call of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) to consolidate on a commercial scale the previous R&D that with the support de Corfo carried out two years before.

“The importance of this project lies in the fact that for the first time, wasabi production will be obtained at a scale that allows its commercialization in counter-season with the production of the Northern Hemisphere, at the same time that the agroclimatic conditions and productive parameters will be studied and validated in a real environment. All of the above under an organic production, fully aligned with the new market trends, regarding functional, organic foods and with an environmentally friendly production. Regarding this last point, it should be noted that the use of water in the project is of a consumptive nature, which means that the water is diverted to the productive terraces, to later be reincorporated to the source from which it comes ", says the director FIA executive, Álvaro Eyzaguirre.

Added value

Regarding the interest generated by this unprecedented innovation, Malis says that "among its stakeholders are recognized and award-winning restaurants such as Maidó in Lima, by chef Mitsuharu 'Micha' Tsumura, and Boragó by Rodolfo Guzmán in Chile. And also distributors in the United States who will sell it in restaurants, who have shown great interest in the product, generating commercial pre-agreements .

In addition, it hopes to partner with producers and entrepreneurs of oils, beers, mustards, cheeses, distillates and ice creams in order to generate a line of products with high added value by containing natural wasabi produced in Chile as a differentiating ingredient, enhancing other productive areas of the region. region.

Wasabi is grown in very few countries outside of Japan, where a kilogram costs between US $ 150 and US $ 300. In the case of the United States, in California specifically, it can reach $ 500 per kilo and in the United Kingdom its price is between US $ 350 and US $ 400.
Although it is considered a luxury plant, its benefits also make it very attractive due to its possible anti-allergenic characteristics. This has caused the executing company to evaluate its medicinal impact with a national laboratory.

“The global shortage for this product is increasing, which is mainly due to the increase in the world of Japanese food consumption, especially sushi. It also adds that in Japan production is declining, since it is carried out under a millenary family farming model, with low yields and with farmers who are often around 100 years old ”, Malis closes.

Wasabi production in Chile.
Wasabi root, part that is gastronomically usable.

 
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