The EU-funded FieldFOOD project is using innovative electric pulse technologies in a bid to make food processing more resource-efficient and cost-effective. Its solutions will be widely applicable across the sector, with specific focus on SME-uptake.
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Growing demand for high-quality, fresh and nutritional foods in Europe and elsewhere also means a growing need for novel, innovative and efficient food processing techniques. The worlds population currently wastes one third of the food it produces, while 780 million people are classed as undernourished.
Although a lot of food is wasted at point of distribution or consumption in developed countries, there is considerable scope for efficiency improvements throughout the food chain. Improving food processing technology has obvious benefits, including reducing spoilage and waste; improving affordability and competitiveness of EU food produce; and reducing the need for preservatives.
While research in these areas has produced promising results, the high costs and risks associated with scaling-up have presented substantial obstacles to innovation.
FieldFOODs response is flexible, portable and affordable pulse generators that would make Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology more accessible and applicable. PEF uses short, high voltage electrical pulses to perforate cell membranes and kill microbes, thereby increasing the shelf life of a product. The process also enhances the products raw material properties by making it easier to process, manipulate and modify afterwards.
FieldFOODs low-cost pulse generators will be applicable to fruit juice; tomato products; olive oil and wine/cider-making. Through tests on fruit juice for example, the use of PEF has proven to improve food safety while increasing the shelf life of the fresh product from 7 to 21 days. FoodFIELDs latest pilot plant experiments have also demonstrated a potential 3 %increase in extraction yield, improving productivity and output as well as quality and safety.
The project is showcasing the piloted technology at a number of high-visibility events across Europe, raising awareness of the opportunities it offers in an attempt to foster broad take-up across the EU food sector.