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H2020

PUREJUICE Report Summary

Project ID: 719575

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PUREJUICE (Industrial scale-up of Pulsed Electric Fields technology for natural fruit juice processing)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Healthier life-style is one of the main drivers of modern society generating, among others, a compelling demand for high quality food. This demand has deeply changed global Food Market trends, as recently reported by Deloitte & Touche, which pointed out how historical consumers’ priorities of taste, price and convenience no longer represent the dominant influence on their choice. High quality of food is becoming as important as the requirements on affordable price and good taste, whereas the consumers’ perception of high quality food relates above all to its nutritional content as well to the intrinsic safety of the product, meaning fewer artificial additives and less sophisticated industrial processes.
To address the evolving consumers demands, food producers are pushed to explore ways to enhance food quality, specifically through the implementation of novel manufacturing approaches capable to deliver the desired quality of the product and also able to increase the yield and to reduce energy required for the process, in order to balance production costs. In this context, the electroporation process (through application of PEF) bears a remarkable potential for the applicability within two crucial food processing steps: a) Mass Transfer, which is involved into the extraction of intracellular components from the food matrix and b) Microbial Inactivation as alternative solution to thermal pasteurization (e.g. pasteurisation) and other techniques aimed at controlling the presence of contaminants and extending shelf-life of products.
The main objective of the PUREJUICE Phase 1 project was the analysis of the conditions for a successful implementation of PEF technology within the production line of different fruit matrices (e.g. pear, red fruits/berries, tropical fruit, stone fruit and grapes).
This will allow turning the technology into a profitable business, providing customer companies operating in natural fruit juice processing with a clear competitive edge through the achievement of three main goals: a) extraction yield increase; b) enhancement of nutritional organoleptic properties of processed material; c) improvement of Economic environmental sustainability of the entire process.
In addition, we explored other potential business cases that we anticipate would benefit from the introduction of EPS PEF technology, with the purpose of prioritizing those with the highest traction and lowest competitive entry barriers. To this scope, we have performed the following tasks:
1. Experimental validation of PEF performances with the selected fruit batches collected from the customers, with the aim of measuring the process parameters in simulated industrial conditions.
2. Extensive research on additional potential verticals within the food processing market that we envisaged will benefit from the implementation of electroporation. Among those, we focused the activities on industrial processes currently used for: a) increasing the production yield from raw material such as i) extraction of sugar from beetroot and ii) production of wine from red/white grapes; b) increasing the shelf life of fresh products such as orange juice and milk production; c) increasing the freshness of microalgae cultivations for nutraceutical purposes.
3. In-depth analysis and feasibility assessment of the potential implementation of the PEF solution developed by EPS through the customer validation approach, i.e. with the direct involvement of key industrial players from the selected market segments. In particular, the in-field market assessment allowed us capturing high-value feedback on the potential impact of the proposed technology, while identifying the most valuable application fields of our solution and possible re-engineering activities to further improve the system performances.
The intersection between the outcomes of the desk-market research and the in-field demonstration with real customers allowed us to identify the key vertical to address, that is the Wine Industry, and to set-up the development plan for the industrial scale up of the EPS solution during the Phase 2 project, along with a successful go-to-market strategy.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Our proprietary EPULSUS solution has been successfully validated with reference to the production of both natural and from concentrate (FC) apple juice at the industrial facilities of our client Dohler Group. Specifically, we proved that our PEF approach, applied as pre-treatment before the belt presses step, leads to the partial or complete removal of the enzymatic maceration and heating steps for the FC and natural juice respectively.
In addition, our solution allows also for a drastic reduction on fixed costs (50%) and variable costs (85%) if compared to the competing PEF systems available on the market. Starting from these important results, we have extended the exploration of the applicability of our PEF solution to other processing lines with the purpose of evaluating the technological and business potential for a further development of our PEF technology. In particular, we focused the analysis on the following case studies:

• Case study 1: Production of red wine.
• Case study 2: Production of juice from stone fruits (peach and apricot).
• Case study 2: Extraction of sugar from beetroot.

For each of the aforementioned case study we have assessed the technical and economic conditions required for a successful introduction of the proposed PEF solution into the market by involving some of the pertinent market stakeholders.

A very peculiar case in this context is represented by the wine industry, where electroporation has been shown beneficial in many different ways, because:

• producing a faster release of polyphenols and colour, and thus reducing (to a third) or eliminating grape maceration times. This will turn into the increase of winery production capability.
• enhancing anthocyanins release, and then intensifying wine colour;
• improving sensorial properties of wine, thus achieving a better product´s quality;
• reducing production costs, and then making the industry more competitive.

PEF represents also an outstanding trade-off between the consumers’ and manufacturers’ needs, because it keeps safe the valuable nutrients of the product and at the same time significantly reduces the energy consumption. In this respect, we have validated our expectations about the possibility to use electroporation in the field of microbial inactivation at industrial scale. In particular, during this feasibility study we have performed on-site investigations to assess the value added by our PEF solution, and a market analysis with respect to three main business cases:

• Case study 1: inactivation of Brettanomyces in wine;
• Case study 2: microbial content reduction in natural orange juice production;
• Case study 3: shelf-life increase in the fresh milk through the application of PEF technology along with current procedures;
• Case study 4: increase of the growing rate in microalgae cultivations by countering the contaminants.
Following the same approach used for the analysis of the business cases of PEF applied to mass transfer processes, we have carried out the assessment of the pre-requisites needed for the implementation of the proposed PEF solution within the industrial lines of the stakeholders involved, along with a market analysis related to the specific key vertical

Based on the above assumptions, we have performed experimental trials of our system on the premises of 15 different vineries in Portugal with different grape varieties, obtaining very satisfactory outputs as described in details during the report.
Considering the work done, the actions developed in market research and the results achieved in the project, the main conclusions of the action are summarized as follows:

- For what concern the initial objective of this feasibility study related to the application of EPS PEF technology to stone fruits for juice production, we have performed trials at pilot scale in cooperation with industrial users with the purpose of increasing the peeling step, which strongly affects the yield of juice extraction from pulp. The results obtained demonstrated that the time required to scale up from current TRL (<6) to engineering and industrial production of the solution for bringing it to the market will not fit with the timeframe of the Phase 2 project. For these reasons we decided to not pursue this business case at this stage while we will continue with experimental tests (at pilot scale) aimed at improving the knowledge on the parameters involved in the process and at carrying out reengineering of the proposed PEF solution.
- We have performed an in-depth analysis of additional fields of application of our PEF system (i.e. orange juice production, milk processing, microalgae cultivation, beet sugar extraction and wine production), with reference to both Mass Transfer and Microbial Inactivation effects. We assessed the TRL of all these case studies and they resulted to be still below 6 mainly due to the need of additional and extensive tests at pilot scale confirming PEF effects reported in literature at lab scale, except for the wine industry application. For each case study, we have also identified potential stakeholders interested in the proposed solution and available to cooperate during pre-industrial tests according to their current needs and requirements.
- Among the application cases we selected, wine processing resulted to be at adequate TRL (>6) for the industrial scale-up and it also represented a profitable business for EPS to bring to the market of wine industry. For these reasons, we have defined the final objectives of the implementation of the PEF technology within the selected wine domain, taking into account both the starting considerations and the additional expertise and background coming from the participant (Sogrape Vinhos) to be involved in the project. A preliminary project work plan for the technical activities and tests has been designed.

The results obtained through the technological feasibility has proven the viability for the engineering and manufacturing of a novel EPS solution for the wine processing market, thus allowing us to go forward with the validation of it with potential clients. The aim of EPS is to pursue the further development of the PEF technology to strengthen our offer and penetrate European market proficiently, but the timing of the investment will be determined by the ability to reach external sources of funds. In this scenario, the SME Instrument Phase 2 will be a valuable way to support the scale up phase of the EPS solution towards the commercial version and to accelerate our market entry.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

In the last decades, several technologies have been proposed with the purpose to offer to the Food Industry market the opportunity for quality improvement (e.g. extended shelf life, increased nutritional contents, and improved organoleptic properties) as well as for process chain optimization and energy costs reduction. In this scenario, there are few competing technologies, which are still at a laboratory scale of development, if compared to electroporation:

- Ultrasonics (US): When propagated through a biological structure, US induce compressions and depressions of the medium particles and a high amount of energy can be imparted. In dependence of the frequency used and the sound wave amplitude applied, a number of physical, chemical and biochemical effects can be observed thus enabling a variety of applications. In this respect, US are applicable both for Mass Transfer and for Microbial Inactivation processes. However, US processing for mass extraction is still in its infancy and requires additional research in order to develop the technology on an industrial scale, and to more fully elucidate the effect of ultrasound on the properties of foods. As for the inactivation of microorganisms, the impact of the high power US on some vegetative cells is remarkable whilst others result to be less sensitive.

- High Pressure Processing (HPP): this technique is also known as “High Hydrostatic Pressure” or “Ultra High Pressure” and it uses up to 900 MPa to kill many of the microorganisms in foods, even at room temperature and without degrading vitamins, while flavour and colour result to be strongly affected. HPP has been used for pasteurization and sterilization of fruits and fruit products. On the other hand, HPP is not effective as a kill step against all microbial forms: spore-forming organisms are highly resistant to HPP when they are in their spore form, and a combination of pressure and heat, or some other antibacterial intervention, is required to achieve any reduction of bacterial spores in foods. Another disadvantage of HPP consists in the fact that product´s taste is subject to alterations if treated with the HPP.

- Pulsed Light system (PLS): the technique of pulsed light processing was developed as a non-thermal food treatment to inactivate harmful microorganisms, and it entails high voltage electric pulses discharge (up to 70 Kilovolt/cm) into the food product placed between two electrodes for few seconds. The use of pulsed light for bacterial and other microbial inactivation tend to gain higher acceptance in the medical pathology and food preservation industries over the use of chemicals or thermal technology mainly because the PLS provokes less damaging effects and reduces after–treatment effects (such as odour, protein denaturation, altered chemical composition) compared to chemical or thermal treatment . However, the technology is not mature enough because some technical issues have to be still resolved, like the overheating of the surface under treatment. To mitigate the effects of sample heating, experiments and patents should be designed with improved cooling systems to remove the heat generated.

Since PEF has reached a pre-industrial stage of development, we identified the current competitors (PEF machine producers) that currently represent the alternative to the EPS solution:
a) Commercial plants: Ohio State University (USA), ELEA (Germany), PurePulseTechnologies (The Netherlands) and San Diego (USA).
b) Pilot plants: Stork Food and Diary Systems (The Netherlands),Wageningen UR in the framework of the NovelIQ project (The Netherlands), SIK (Sweden), Arc Aroma Pure (Sweden) and University of Technology (Germany).

Our in-house designed, developed and produced PEF technology stands out with respect to the competitors being based on two devices only connected by a cable:
1) A modulator, which generates high-voltage pulses, connected to
2) A transducer, where the pulses are converted to electric fields applied to the material being processed
Our main competitive advantage derives from our long experience in high-voltage electronics as well as from the knowledge gained in the development of the transducer equipment, both applied and tested under industrial conditions for several applications.

Related information

Record Number: 194938 / Last updated on: 2017-02-17
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