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Microbiome Applications in the Food System and Nano Life Sciences: New Learnings at the NANO-DAY IV Conference

The EU Horizon 2020-funded SIMBA project aims to gain a better understanding of microbiome structure and function, related to marine and terrestrial food chains and to verify the sustainability of microbial innovations of the food system. Recently, SIMBA project partners attended the fourth NANO-DAY conference which took place in Milan, Italy on 11th – 14th December 2019.

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The conference focused on nanotechnology and nanomaterials, with two key topic streams of 'Nano in Life Sciences' and 'Nano in Physics, Chemistry and Technology'. With an estimated 350 participants from industry, research, policy and government, the conference had a strong emphasis on new nanotechnology materials, nanomaterial engineering, and nanobiotechnology. At the event, SIMBA hosted a special session under the 'Nano in Life Sciences' topic, organised by Nelson Marmiroli and chaired by Elena Maestri, from partner University of Parma. The team's session, titled 'nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in agriculture and food production', presented SIMBA's progress and key findings to date. The session linked microbial applications in food systems with nanotechnology, which could lead to novel discoveries and collaboration. These could include the use of nanomaterials in agriculture to suppress crop diseases, and improved food production by increasing efficiency of inputs and more targeted nutrient delivery. Such innovations are essential with the growing challenges posed by climate change and a rapidly growing global population. Project coordinator Anne Pihlanto (Luke) opened the session by introducing SIMBA's holistic approach that exploits microbiomes in agriculture and aquaculture to increase sustainability in food production. Pihlanto also noted the numerous expected impacts from the project, including increasing productivity, quality, safety, sustainability and nutrition security in the food chain, as well as longer-term impacts such as increased innovation capacities of public and private food system stakeholders. Four specific strands of SIMBA research were highlighted and discussed, including research which seeks to identify candidates of Plant Growth-Promoting Microbes (PGPMs), which are potential alternatives to chemical fertilisers and pesticides, presented by Silvia Tabacchioni (ENEA). Innovative research on microbial processing for nutritional enhancement of plant-based products was then introduced by Minna Kahala (Luke). The findings could ultimately lead to protein-rich food products with improved nutritional value, digestibility, and safety. Anna-Maria Pajari (University of Helsinki) presented ongoing human intervention trials analysing how a sustainable diet, or a side stream-derived food produced utilising microbes, shapes the human gut microbiota and health. The final presentation from Milena Stefanova (ENEA) covered the sustainability assessment and potential uptake of microbial innovations developed from the project. Stefanova described the comparative environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) and social-LCA required to assess the overall increase in sustainability of microbial innovations. Additional presentations from conference participants highlighted the possible role of nanotechnologies in sustainable agriculture, and a lively discussion evidenced the difference in approaches between the EU and USA. After the event, SIMBA Coordinator Anne Pihlanto noted "there are key strong benefits of sharing SIMBA activities with researchers interested in nanotechnology and plant production. It was beneficial for us to meet other actors and the event has highlighted the need for harmonisation of legislation and regulation." For more information please visit the project website at simbaproject.eu or follow us on Twitter @SIMBAproject_EU Project coordination: Principal Scientist, Anne Pihlanto (anne.pihlanto@luke.fi) Communications: Jane Maher (jane@aquatt.ie)

Keywords

food security, nanotechnology, microbiome