New research complex advances food quality and safety

The expansion and renovation of two laboratories at the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Technology Potsdam-Bornim is bringing benefits to SMEs in the horticulture, food and bioeconomy sectors, and quality and safety improvements for consumers.

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Opening of the new research complex. © ATB Opening of the new research complex. © ATB

" The new pilot plants and facilities allow unique interdisciplinary fundamental and applied research on highest scientific level with respect to the complex process-product interactions along the postharvest chain and contribute to secure high quality food products for the increasing world population. Furthermore, the research supports the food-related bioeconomy, not just by reducing waste and increasing efficiency, but also by innovation. "

Dr. Martin Geyer, Vice-Director ATB and Head of Department of Horticultural Engineering

Research in the new complex focuses on the quality and safety of agricultural food and feed products. Thanks to the modern measuring and analysis equipment acquired as part of the project, the Institute is able to develop new methods of testing the quality of perishables and ensure the hygiene of sensitive food such as salad and meat. In addition, resource- and energy-efficient ways of processing, preserving, drying, and storing agricultural food and feed related products are being developed.

The Institute carries out both fundamental and applied research along the entire supply chain of fresh and non-processed vegetable and animal food, including fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, grains, milk, and meat. The aim is to develop new efficient, non-invasive, eco-friendly, and economical methods for food analysis, processing, and storage.

Benefits for local producers and for consumers

The project also encourages technology transfers with businesses in the region and strengthens the competitiveness of local SMEs in the area of horticulture, the food industry, and suppliers as an important part of the food-related bioeconomy. For instance, the producers can benefit from new drying processes for grains and other cultures which achieve energy savings of up to 30 %. Furthermore, innovative preservation and storage techniques reduce losses and increase the quality of stored food.

Consumers also benefit from the research carried out in Potsdam. The improved methods for quality and safety assessments ensure that only high-quality food will reach the customers. This will lead to increased trust and confidence of consumers in the local food industry.

The new infrastructure contributes largely to elaborate solutions for the agricultural and food industry and allows collaboration with universities, other research institutions and enterprises on highest levels. The project generates continuously new jobs for technical staff and young excellent scientists who successfully applied for highly competitive third party founding. At the moment about 20 postdocs, PhD students and technicians are working in such national and international projects.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the projects “Renovation and expansion of a laboratory for research on fresh and perishable vegetable food: fruit, vegetables and potatoes” and “Dry Lab: Energy efficient conservation of agricultural commodities – extension and technical equipment” is EUR 2 967 000 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributing EUR 2 225 000 through the “Brandenburg” operational programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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