Category 18 April 2019

Developing sustainable production methods and tools to optimise resource consumption in the European food production and processing sector

RESFOOD is a European Union funded project to develop innovative technologies for food cultivation and processing in Europe. The project has achieved promising results and developed new technologies for a resource efficient and safe food chain which will be pilot tested in the food growing and processing industry in Europe. 

The challenge

Food production and processing accounts for about 65 % of Europe’s daily water consumption, while 30 % of the total food produced in Europe is lost and wasted. To address thisissue European policy makers issued public grant funding for R&D through the project RESFOOD – Resource Efficiency and Safety in Food Production and Processing.

The innovation

Starting in November 2012, RESFOOD is a three-year project led by the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) with 18 partners from competent research centres and SMEs based in four European and two associated countries. The RESFOOD partners joined their forces to discover and develop new tools and technologies for recovering and reusing nutrients, water and valuable components from food production, as well as processing and thus creating a circular economy in this area. The multi-dimensionality and the approach of combining activities of research in RESFOOD project deals with many aspects of food sustainability and safety especially:

1)      Reuse of nutrients and water in horticulture

2)      Treatment of water for reducing waste of water and energy during food processing

3)      Development of processes to retrieve useful by-products during each stage of agro-industrial fruit and vegetable processing industry

4)      Creation of innovative processes to decontaminate and disinfect vegetables to mitigate the risks of food-borne illnesses

5)      Development of methodologies for rapid monitoring and detection of bacterial pathogens in recycled water

Why did it work?

The RESFOOD project was initiated by the competent European research institutes under the leadership of Dutch scientific institute, TNO for reducing water use and to address the loss waste of food during food processing in Europe with the grant funding of the EU. The project tackles the problems of resource efficient food production and processing from different angles and has developed concrete technologies and tools for further pilot testing and demonstration in the second half of 2014. The project partner leading the horticulture research, ADESVA, has already tested the successful soilless cultivation methods. Rafael Muñoz from ADESVA claims, “in our first field trial of blackberry growth in soilless crops, we have proved that it is possible to reduce over 40% of the water consumption maintaining the same fruit quality and yield. So for the producers it is cheaper and they can reduce the total fertilizers and biological control agents used”.  Large savings in water and energy use in food processing have been shown possible by combining new and existing technologies.

Further deployment

The solutions developed by the project have the potential to stimulate new markets and create new start-ups, especially in the water treatment sector and biomass valorisation. The solutions brought forward by the project for disinfection and detection of pathogens in food and water can build consumers’ confidence in fresh-cut produce. Since the solutions developed are currently at the pilot-testing phase, the maturity of this eco-innovation is estimated to be 6 at GML scale.