This proposal is focused on finding a holistic solution for reduction of water and energy inputs in the food chain provided by the development of nanotechnology advances. The expected impact of the project can be divided into three levels:
The sustainability of agricultural productions
The recirculation and continuous renewal of wash water should be sufficient to maintain process efficacy, prevent the accumulation of organic material and diminishing the risks of cross-contamination. Normally, the water is recycled in an inverse direction to the product flow with typical requirements ranging from 0.6-2 L per kg of raw commodity. Considering that extensive production areas such as Almeria region (South East of Spain) produce close to 3 Mt it is evident that represents a serious negative impact especially in production areas (e.g. Mediterranean) with water scarcity. Many of these areas have ground water as the main water source with extraction from well depths up to 300 m. This represents a double SUSFOOD Full Proposal CEREAL 45 of 83 negative impact in terms of water and energy and an environmental threat, which must be addressed to ensure sustainable growing.
The protection of consumers
During the washing operation and/or recycling, water quality deteriorates and can represent a risk of increased microbial populations and other chemicals including those harmful to humans. Agrochemicals and disinfection by-products may reach the consumer, posing a potential threat to human health. What is more, there is a risk of infiltration of pathogens and chemicals in the fruit or vegetable tissue caused by changes in pressure. An holistic solution, including technical improvements in the washing operation and the adequate use of packaging materials is expected to reduce the problems associated with chemical and microbiological hazard and their perception as such by the consumers.
The competitive position of the European agricultural industry
In order to turn a bright light on resource efficiency throughout food chains, and to facilitate the production of new fresh fruits and vegetable products we need to permanently reduce the intensity of input usage by increasing at the same time the necessary food safety and shelf life. The market increase of this kind of produces requires important developments in food cleaning and packing processes as they are the most critical stages in fruit and vegetable processing. Furthermore, this technology must be flexible enough to take into account the distinct microbial loads and organic material possible. The improvements must permit a market increase of the EU agricultural industry thanks to a better perception of produce quality.