Towards next-generation vegetable fermentations with functional starter cultures. 01/11/2022 - 30/09/2026


Fermented foods are defined as foods made through desired microbial growth and enzymatic conversion of food components. Despite being widely consumed, only a few vegetable fermentations (e.g. kimchi) have been extensively studied, but others remain largely understudied. These vegetable fermentations are mostly spontaneous and could benefit from a dedicated starter culture to improve safety, flavor, texture, and health potential, such as production of vitamins. This project will therefore focus on collecting a wide range of fermented vegetable samples through citizen science projects both in Belgium and USA. Species level community dynamics will be explored to understand the ecology of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in these man-made environments. LAB will be isolated as potential starter cultures. Traditionally, starter culture selection relies mostly on labor intensive trial and error screening but in our project, we propose the use of genome-scale metabolic models (GEMs) for rapid screening of metabolic potential. Starter cultures will be fully characterized both in silico using GEMs and in vitro phenotypic characterization. Based on these results, starter cultures will be metabolically engineered for the increased expression of target metabolites to improve texture, flavor and health potential. This project will result in 5 optimized functional starter cultures together with a metabolic engineering pipeline for future starter cultures.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project