Manufacturing: the VitaCube
Our project is designed for poor regions: the cheaper our product, the more people it can reach. We didn't want to build labs in India, buy media and grow our strains in expensive structures. Therefore, we had to think of a cheap solution to grow the strains in a homemade media, made of common ingredients, cheap and readily available.
We made a series of experiments to see which strain could be grown in home-made media, and we discovered that all our probiotics were growing simply in water that had been used to cook potatoes or rice. Nothing else was needed, there is enough nutrients in just this cooking water.
It means that once someone has the probiotics, they can grow them at home easily and with no cost at all.
We also thought about how to distribute those strains to the population in the first place. We could have just lyophilized the strains but our goal is to design something cheap and easy to do for the locals, using only ingredients they have access to and not time consuming.
We realised a powder wasn't the best way to distribute our strains. We found better to make portions, easy to pack, with the possibility to pack several portions together. Portions must be easy to stock.
The most efficient and ergonomic shape appeared to be a cube. Moreover, the cube will mainly be added to Idli, made of rice, so rice flour seemed to be a logical ingredient, consonant with the dish, common in India and cheap.
Little by little, we succeeded to design an easy recipe, to cook small cubes made of rice flour and water: the VitaCubes. The idea was also to be flexible to every VitaCube maker means, therefore the recipe is not very strict and can be adapted to what the people have available.
Now that we have found a convenient distribution mean, we need to be sure that it keeps our strains alive and to know how long it can be stored.
We conducted several survival test on the VitaCubes, using S. cerevisiae and L. lactis. We observed that the yeast can be stored more than one week in a VitaCube. For the bacteria L. lactis, we found that after 4 days of drying, the survival rate started to be very very low. Nevertheless, there are still around 10^5 cells in a VitaCube after one week, which is far enough to make a culture from it.