The project has developed two innovative, low-cost technologies aimed to sustainable growth in the agri-food sector, with a special focus on fruit and vegetables, involving the use of electrolysed waters as on field and post-harvest agents against fungi, bacteria and viruses on plants and fruits, leaving no residues, and ozone as post-harvest and preservation treatment.
Among main objectives:
• to reduce harvest losses on field, but also during storage and transport
• to achieve lower environmental impact avoiding the use of traditional chemicals
• to guarantee higher safety levels for consumers
• to reduce water consumption
Verified results obtained - directly related to the above mentioned goals - include:
• increase of yields both pre and post-harvest, variable according to fruit and vegetable type, from 20% to 100%
• reduction of process water consumption and pesticide use up to 70%
Industrie De Nora - De Nora Next - ItalyLead applicant
Industrie De Nora is the world leading provider in the electrochemical industry since 1923. De Nora Next is an Industrie De Nora business unit providing highly innovative systems and products, based on eco-friendly technologies, able to contribute to the well being of people, improving the quality of their life. De Nora Next systems can be used in a great variety of applications from agri-food to healthcare.
Experimental Station for the Food Preserving Industry - ItalyInitiative partner
SSICA aims to promote the technical and technological progress of the Italian food-preserving industry for the sectors of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish products, through its activities of research, consultancy, training and dissemination of information.
Centre of Plant protection, Department of Agricultural Sciences – University of Bologna - ItalyInitiative partner
The Department of Agricultural Sciences “DipSA” of the University of Bologna was founded in 2012 through the merge of several scientific bodies of the Faculty of Agriculture: the Department of Agronomy, Plant Pathology, Agricultural Chemistry, Agricultural Microbiology and Entomology, the Department of Agri-food Protection and Improvement and the Department of Arboriculture. The DipSA is one of the largest departments of the University of Bologna, in budget and staff. Centre of Plant Protection is part of DipSA and is involved on research about epidemiology of the crop diseases and their control, teaching and experimentation. Furthermore, field experimental trials on efficacy, selectivity and persistence of herbicides are carried out. At the Centre are active the organizing committee and the scientific advisory board of the national congress “Giornate Fitopatologiche” that represents the most important Italian event on plant protection.
Fondazione per L’Agricoltura Fratelli Navarra - ItalyInitiative partner
La Fondazione non ha scopo di lucro e si propone nel rispetto dei principi che la ispirano ed in osservanza dell'atto fondativo, i seguenti scopi in ordine di priorità: 1. Contribuire al sostegno dell'Istituto di Stato per l'Agricoltura "F.lli Navarra" creato con D.P.R. 30/9/1961 n. 1964 e/o di altro istituto scolastico avente sempre finalità di istruzione nel settore dell'agricoltura. 2. Contribuire alla formazione di adeguate professionalità nel campo delle attività agricole e collaterali, ivi compresa ogni attività di orientamento, qualificazione professionale ed inserimento lavorativo, anche in collaborazione con Università, Enti pubblici e privati di formazione e ricerca. 3. Promuovere nel territorio ferrarese in ogni forma e con adeguate iniziative, la cultura e l'innovazione nel settore agricolo, la salvaguardia della tipicità e delle sue tradizioni e il rispetto per l'ambiente. 4. Promuovere una coerente coevoluzione di nuove tecnologie e nuove forme organizzative e di governance nell'agricoltura.
Tecnogranda spa - ItalyInitiative partner
Tecnogranda is the Regional Agri-food Innovation Cluster of Piedmont (Piemonte, Italy). Among its activities are: - Networking of innovation and ideas in the agri-food sector - Promotion of the Piedmontese agri-food sector through events and business opportunities at regional, national and world level - Application for funding to support reasearch and innovation projects, feasibility studies and services according to regular deadlines reserved to stakeholders connected to the Innovation Clusters of Regione Piemonte - Promotion and support for the participation of Piedmontese agri-food sector SMEs to calls for reasearch projects in Europe and worldwide - Representation of member enterprises at specific national and international events (eg. Agrifood National Cluster)
Institute of Sciences of Food Production - National Research Council of Italy - ItalyInitiative partner
Research for food quality and safety
Tebaldi srl - ItalyInitiative partner
Tebaldi is a wine technology and equipment manufacturer, embracing the whole range of products for vinification and wines ageing in wood. Its main activities are related to: • wine ageing in wood (barriques, barrels, casks, vats and equipment of partner companies Tonnellerie Bel Air and Marsalbotti) • biotechnology (yeast and activators, in partnership with AB Food Group; ExperTi range of yeasts, enzymes, tannins, fermentation, biological enhancers, activators) • plants and equipment for special purposes such as: ISIOX system for gases management; Equistab units for pH control and tartaric stabilization by resin; O-TRE ozone generators for tanks, equipment and surfaces sanitization; • special research and experimentation projects, among them the Freewine® project Its business philosophy is based on listening to cellars’ needs and participating in their working stages, to offer integrated and customized solutions, sharing international know-how and experience.
Università degli Studi di Torino- Department of Agricultural , Forest and Food Sciences - ItalyInitiative partner
The mission of the Department of Agricultural, Forestry, and Food Sciences (DiSAFA, Turin University) is to perform basic and applied research, and to offer educational programmes at undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral level, in the fields of plant- and animal-based primary production and transformation processes, and on the interactions of these activities with the territory and environment. DiSAFA is devoted to perform world-class fundamental research to deliver knowledge and innovation, and provide evidence-based sustainable solutions to current and future challenges. DiSAFA’s research is focused on the needs of society – be that at local, national or global level – and so make a valuable contribution to the economy, politics and society in general. Its strength lies in an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in agricultural, forest and food sciences.
Qualitec - ItalyInitiative partner
Service company operating in the field of processing, treatment and supply of food products. Main activities include: technical and organizational assistance for the planning/engineering of food processing companies, from industrial plants to small scale enterprises; support in new food products development and manufacturing technologies; consulting for the standardization of production processes throughout all stages.
Fabrizio Torchio - ItalyInitiative partner
Agricultural holding mainly dedicated to grape growing.
Dienstleistungszentren Ländlicher Raum Rheinland-Pfalz - GermanyInitiative partner
DLR is a public body dedicated to the development of rural centres. Its activities involve the training of agricultural stakeholders on regulations related to farm management, professional training of agricultural workers, State advisory, experimental projects, agronomy consulting, nutritional consulting, research in viticulture, oenology, phytomedicine, grape-growing, vegetable growing and fruit growing in general.
Fruttur - SpainInitiative partner
Established in 2010 in Lleida (Spain), Fruttur is a consulting company specialized in fruit production, concentrating its activity on projects for intensive plantations of apples, pears and peaches; its agronomy management spans from planning to seeding, to obtain quality certificates. The company is among pioneers in innovative techniques for farm management and operates across Spain with a 20-year experienced multi-disciplinary team.
Ortoromi società cooperative agricola - ItalyInitiative partner
Italy-based business community operating in the ready-to-eat vegetables sector with three production units, 600-hectare land and daily processing capacity of approximately 5000 kg of fresh salad. Innovation of product, process and management are regularly implemented by the cooperative enterprise.
Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, National Research Council - CNR - ItalyInitiative partner
The Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection (IPSP) is part of the Agricultural and Food Department of National Research Council (CNR). The IPP is located in the CNR Area of research in Turin,with Organizational Support Units in Bari, Florence and Portici. The mission of IPSP is the study of plants stress factors, in order to identify resistance mechanisms and methods of defense against biotic and abiotic stress, in order to improve quality and quantity of agricultural food production and for a sustainable and environmentally friendly growth. The activities are divided into 5 IPP research lines: - Plants resistance factors to biotic and abiotic stress (AG.P04.023) - Plant-organism-environment interactions, multitrophic relationships and biocontrol in plant defense (AG.P04.024) - Biodiversity in agricultural and forestry systems: genetic, molecular and epigenetic basis (AG.P04.025) - Sustainable technologies for plants protection from damage agents (AG.P04.026) - Protection of biodiversity in the forest and natural ecosystems in response to global change (AT.P02.035)
Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari - ItalyInitiative partner
Innovative procedures for fruit and vegetable growing, storing and processing aimed to reduce waste, optimize resources, ensure safety on field and through the whole production chain. Feeding the planet through better production and waste reduction.
The technology employed allows on-site production starting from simple elements such as water, salt and air, thus radically changing the farmers’ and food processors’ role on a cultural level: instead of buying and using traditional chemical agents, they can produce their own solution on demand and treat crops - until the day before harvesting, but also post-harvesting - through an extremely easy-to-use process, that can be applied widely on a global scale.
Ultimately the innovation is capable of improving the quality of life of all individuals involved in the process (from farmers to consumers), increase the quantity and quality of food available, its preservation and shelf life, while at the same time reducing pesticide contaminations and the waste of water.
The cultural and geographical scope of the project revolves around the Mediterranean Basin, where to two different “worlds” coexist.
In Africa, ever-increasing population growth causes concern and, though one third of it is employed in agriculture, resources are often inadequate. Pollution levels may be loosely controlled.
In Europe, the attention is high on food safety, health and environmental risks, while rules are very demanding: this means higher quality agri-food products, but yields are more critical and production costs are on the rise.
The resulting picture may be one of lower availability (or lower quality) of agricultural and fruit products, particularly for Africa.
The technologies and applications developed can be the basis of a promising new era for African agriculture, where healthy products can be produced respecting the environment while employing few resources: water, air, salt, electricity.
The application of on-site technologies resulted in increases of crop and post-harvest yields, higher product quality and lower environmental impact, savings on energy and raw materials prices.
In the case of electrolyzed water:
• the recovery of apple and pear cultivations infected by Nectria Galligena and Fire blight
• increases (+25%) of wholesome product at harvest and reduction of post-harvesting losses from 10% to 20%
• fruit size increases from 25% to 35% (preliminary studies)
Regarding ozone treatment:
• product life extension both in storage and shelf exposure:from a minimum of 30% on kiwis up to a maximum of 90-100% on berries
• lower presence of residual pesticides, down to -70% on lettuce and apple crops during post-harvesting
• reuse of process waters (after ozone treatment) on ready-to-eat production lines resulted in 50-70% consumption reduction
Less pathologies on field, lower losses in production, extension of preservation times and consequently longer transport capability: key factors that allow a range of benefits widely spread across the food industry and the market.
• Consumers are the first and most important category that may benefit from such improvements in the production chain. More food available translates into purchasing access to a wider population base, with a possible calming effect on prices. Healthier food, free from pathogens and chemical residues, means higher safety standards for all.
• Producers have acknowledged tangible results in terms of higher yields and fewer losses connected to pathogens on field, as well as fruit size increases; all this while employing products not dangerous for their health.
• Stockists and distributors also benefit from longer preservation times and extended shelf life, at the same time reducing wastes.
The project started as a spin-off of the University of Ferrara (Italy) in co-operation with Industrie De Nora and the support of a wide number of partners, both in the public and in the private sector.
A total staff of over 40 specialists is active on the project, among them technicians, scientists, researchers and managers with international expertise.
The know-how involved is rooted in several fields: agronomic science, food science and technology, chemical science, microbiology and biology, mechanical and materials engineering, preservation techniques, analysis and characterization techniques, quality of products and processes, plant protection, agricultural production, food production, research project management, innovation management.
The development of the project has encountered several obstacles: cultural, technical, scientific and regulatory.
The cultural aspects have proven to be the most hard to overcome, and they have caused a slowdown of the project on its programmed schedule.
The cultural resistance toward such innovative technologies by end users and a certain attachment to traditional methods has restrained farmers and entrepreneurs to embrace the innovations, worrying that they may lose harvests, product stocks and, ultimately, wealth, but also unfounded beliefs (e.g. the use of ozone related to “ozone hole” environmental issues) played a role.
The strategy to overcome such obstacles has been developed through:
• production of large quantities of data to support objectively the efficacy of the proposed methods, thanks to a wide experimental activity with partner institutions and on the field, with users assisted by technical experts;
• the dissemination of such data to a wider audience of stakeholders.
The technologies may reduce environmental impact as compared to the use of traditional pesticides, biocides and preservatives:
• Solutions are produced on site directly by end users, only in the quantity required.
Small devices instead of large-scale chemical plants means less hazard risks for the environment. This allows a reduction of: raw materials use, resource exploitation, transport costs and fuel charges, packaging costs and related pollutants to be disposed (plastic), surplus and storage of traditional pesticides and their disposal.
• Natural raw materials are employed: Ozone is generated through electrical discharge of oxygen in air; electrolyzed water derives from water, potassium chloride and electrical current.
• Solutions are decomposed after use, reverting into initial raw materials, with no accumulation in the environment.
• Possibility of reuse of process waters and consequent water savings.
• Low power consumption and the possibility of solar energy feeding.
The project, already involving several crops families and different productive stakeholders across the food chain, is by its nature transferable and can be applied into other geographical areas.
Knowledge dissemination activities, the co-operation with partners strong in innovation and technological transfer capability (such as the Tecnogranda network), the contribution of internationally acknowledged institutions (IAMB and CNR to name a few) but also the presence of De Nora group in different regions (Americas, Far East, India and Europe) were key elements to support the transferability and duplicability of the initiative.
Expanding into new crop types and new environments will generate a further enrichment of the team’s knowledge base and scientific expertise.
The year 2014 has seen the start of several new test campaigns both in the agricultural sector and in the food processing chain on: tomato, asparagus, squash, eggplant, paprika, cucumber, melon, strawberry, apple and pear.
The involvement of different players, from users to researchers, is key to achieve a good level of dissemination, and has activated a peculiar mix of channels and activities connected to the project:
• Promotion in trade exhibitions
• Seminars with farmers and food processors
• Technical articles on specialized magazines and websites
• Participation to international scientific congresses
• Scientific publications
• Social networks discussion groups
Future developments will be focused on high visual impact materials to better express the technological aspects, the upgrade of websites and an increase of meetings with users on a local base, to establish small clusters that can further circulate the messages.
The role of enterprise networks is also important: the Piedmont Regional Agri-food Innovation Cluster (with its co-ordinator Tecnogranda) allows the diffusion of results to 470 affiliates: vineyards, wineries, horticultural and cereal farms, food processors and distributors.