Date of release: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

NRIResearch to improve storage in supply chains delivering fruit and vegetables to consumers will benefit more growers in developing countries as well as in the UK, thanks to a major investment by the University of Greenwich.

The university is funding expansion of the established postharvest research facilities at the Produce Quality Centre based at NIAB EMR, a horticultural research institute, at East Malling, Kent.

The expansion includes improving the capacity for controlling temperature and humidity in storage trials and extending resources for non-destructive methods to determine produce quality.

The centre is bringing together the combined expertise and facilities of the university's Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and NIAB EMR to support the fresh produce industry worldwide.

The Produce Quality Centre is already well known for supporting farmers with its storage expertise for the full range of UK fruit and vegetable crops including apples, pears, cherries and plums alongside broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage and potato,

Researchers from the university's Natural Resources Institute, at Medway, are using the expanded East Malling facilities to develop and test storage and transport solutions for crops as diverse as grains, cassava, avocado and mango for tropical and sub-tropical producers.

They aim to reduce waste in supply chains overseas dramatically, improve commercialisation of crops and boost local economies. Waste reduction is a significant part of the current global food security agenda.

Dr Debbie Rees, NRI Principal Scientist, says: "Research we have carried out on transport and storage over many decades at NRI is already being used extensively by farmers in developing countries.

"Investment in the Produce Quality Centre means we will be able to advise more producers and companies in the supply chains on the best temperatures and conditions for a wider range of crops during storage and in transit.

"This will include optimising the atmosphere that the produce is exposed to throughout its journey. For example, reducing oxygen levels slows down the metabolism of the fruit and vegetables. Getting the atmosphere and temperatures right will eliminate vast quantities of crops going to waste in transit."

Opportunities for technological developments are increasing in the developing world with, for example, increased access to electricity – via solar power – and the widespread use of mobile phones. This means many more overseas producers and transporters are set to take full advantage of advanced storage and handling protocols.

The Produce Quality Centre works with other researchers and commercial companies to develop and test novel technologies to improve quality and reduce waste.

Story by Public Relations