Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica and opuntia dillenii) may not be a familiar edible fruit ready for consumption today, but its juice is all set to be known as the most-preferred ‘fruit beverage’ soon.
National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has approved the application of Sri Venkateswara University’s Department of Science and Technology – Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence (DST-PURSE) Centre for the process of manufacturing blended fruit squash with prickly pear. With this, the varsity has inched closer to getting the Intellectual Property Right (IPR), which facilitates the product’s commercialisation.
The centre had applied for the same way back in 2014, with its coordinator and professor D.V.R. Sai Gopal as the mentor, associate professor in Home Science K.V. Sucharitha as the supervisor and research scholar S. Chennakesava Reddy as the inventor. A member of the cactus family, prickly pear is pervasive in the arid regions across the globe. “This can be easily grown in deserts, high ranges and any uncultivated land. It is safe from animal grazing, thanks to its thorny body, and there is no need for pesticides. Flowering also happens fast”, Prof. Sai Gopal told The Hindu .
The twin challenges ahead of the team include ensuring large-scale production of the plant that is currently believed to have no commercial value and the need to educate the public and promote the nutrition-packed fruit as a traditional, endemic and sustainable alternative to the foreign fruits that have flooded the market. “Prickly pear is a under-utilised fruit, notwithstanding its widespread availability. It will become a hit just like kiwi and other fruits which were not popular till a decade back,” points out Dr. Chennakesava Reddy, who is now a faculty member at Indian Institution of Plantation Management, Bengaluru.
The team has grand plans for commercialisation once the patent is sanctioned in the near future. This, the research team expects, would not only change the facade of the arid lands and the cropping choices of farmers, but also bring locally-grown nutritional supplements to the reach of the poor.