The process is also sustainable and produces very little waste. Anthocyanins reside in the husks, cobs and pericarp, or low value portions of the plant, so Suntava is still able to market the starches, proteins and oils for use as food or feed ingredients and additives in other value added applications.
“That’s what makes it so sustainable,” says Petrich. “As we grow more and consume more acres, we’re not impacting the rest of the food chain. We’re getting much more out of the acre than just dye. The red dye is more or less the byproduct of the grain.”
Petrich calls corn the ideal crop to work with for a number of reasons, sustainability being a prime factor.
“Corn is one of the most widely understood and harvested crop in the world,” he says. “We can regenerate it in abundance, which is important because there were around 17 million pounds of synthetic dye certified last year by the FDA. So when you think about what natural sources can produce that type of volume, corn is the only crop that comes to mind.”
Potential for feed industry
Initially, when Suntava was established, the company conserved its resources and research for the core product, the colorant. They originally considered the starch, protein and oil as the byproduct of the dye extraction process.
However, when local cattle farmers began asking to use the extracted grain in their feed rations, Petrich began to wonder if the antioxidant-rich corn would have a positive impact on their herds.
“Now that we have freer resources, we’re looking into defining what is unique about this product,” says Petrich. “We’re analyzing the oils and the proteins to see if there are any specific benefits to cattle or other livestock, so we can market that advantage.”
Suntava’s cattle feed product is now developed; however, it is currently researching aquaculture and food opportunities.
Any potential feed products from Suntava would also have an advantage in the European feed industry because it is non-GMO.
Petrich appreciates the years of research the Frenches poured into developing this unique breed of corn.
“Their top contribution was their faith that the resources they devoted would turn into a future opportunity,” says Petrich. “They put all they could into their research and developed it into something beyond what they could’ve envisioned.”
Although the discovery and development of Sayela™ may have been a diversion from the Frenches initial research goal, their accidental disovery lead to a wealth of valuable products.