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Innovative down-scaled FOod processing in a boX

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FOX (Innovative down-scaled FOod processing in a boX)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-05-31

The unique FOX approach researches and develops innovative, small scale technologies in mobile or flexible processing units for different applications for small and medium enterprises and farmers in the fruit and vegetable sector in Europe. FOX is focusing on mild processing technologies: low temperature drying, mild extraction, mild preservation with pulsed electric field or high pressure, innovative conditioning and packaging and rapid quality testing. By this a variety of fruit/vegetable products can be produced with superior physical and nutritional quality and so contributing to a healthier food diet. FOX stimulates short food supply chains; transitioning from a more centralised industry, to local production hubs. FOX processes will be demonstrated in six European model regions and presented in seven associated partner regions with significant fruit and vegetable growing (conventional and organic production). The potential for new business options are exploited and strategies are designed to engage consumers in product development processes. Impact of the FOX approach on the environment, business, people and their health will be assessed and serve as input for these developments. To promote the FOX approach of small scale technologies for regional food systems a Europe-wide Interest Group of Small Scale food Processors has been set up that will also foster the dialogue to deliver policy recommendations. Guidelines and targeted communication for each processing technology will be developed to reach potential users.
Scientific and technical research is ongoing in all four Food circles (FC) with different focuses:
i) in FC 1 (Low oxygen juice extraction and mild preservation, Bodensee, DE) concept development and construction of the mobile small-scale juice production unit with innovative vacuum extraction technology and pulsed electric field processing on small scale is now finalized. The mobile juice processing unit was transported for test and demonstration in relevant environment to partner KOB in the Bodensee region.
ii) in FC 2 (Low temperature drying, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Volvodeship, PL & Central Bohemian, CZ) the impact of different drying methods in combination with non-thermal pre-treatment on process kinetics and quality was studied. Based on those results it was decided that the FOX prototype unit will be constructed with the infrared assisted air-drying method (IR-CD) and the process will be preceded optionally by PEF treatment. The design of the FC 2- prototype started.
iii) FC 3 (Quality analysis and sustainable packaging, Valencia, SP, Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur, FR) tested different technologies for the characterization of the suitable fresh fruits and vegetables on lab scale. Compact and sustainable conditioning processes (washing, peeling, cutting and post-treatments) were developed for different snack combinations. Furthermore, innovative and sustainable packaging system prototypes were developed for the distribution through the e-commerce of these snacks. Based on the results, main equipment necessary for the design of a mobile unit were defined.
iv) FC 4 (Upscaling plant side streams, Noord-Brabant, NL) the prototype of a software tool (the Procestimator) was realized to analyse processing routes, costs and quality properties of intermediate and end products of upcycling options for vegetable and fruit side streams. Required pre-processing technologies for side stream stabilization or to facilitate further processing were investigated as well as the impact of possible upcycling options on selected side streams.

In parallel with research and development activities regarding technologies in the four food circles an app has been developed as starting point for building a relationship and connection between consumers, food technologists, local producers and shops in the food circles. This FOXLINK app was launched in beginning of 2022 in all six FOX regions. The app also supports and guides regional partners in the planning of regional consumer events to bring consumers closer to the FOX technologies and local communities.

A life cycle assessment (LCA) was modelled for the construction of the mobile unit in food Circles 1 and 2. Also, the environmental impacts of 32 alternative reference products have been investigated with a preliminary data inventory. Partial data have been also collected for life cycle costing analysis (LCC) and social impact analysis. In 2022, two new environmental studies took place to investigate the role of consumer behaviours on the sustainability performances of FOX products, and the potential consequences of different solutions for the valorisation of food waste, surplus, or loss. These analyses meet the needs of food circles 3 and 4.

Data on composition of reference products were provided and methodology for health impact assessment was established. With partners from the technological work packages a detailed planning is being made regarding availability (timescale) of final FOX products needed for laboratory analyses. Afterwards, when data on FOX products’ composition are available, the health impact assessment is going to be performed.

For the different food circles, the Business Model Canvases have been updated and alternative configurations have been put forward. These will be discussed and finetuned with food circle actors in next period.

At the beginning of the project, the Interest Group Small-Scale Food Processor has been launched. By continuous promotion and outreach to members and participants of events like the European Stakeholder Workshops, the group grew to over 100 members.

All project activities and results are very actively communicated and disseminated through various channels and activities. Latest information are available on the FOX website www.foodprocessinginabox.eu and the FOX LinkedIn channel.
The FOX approach consists of innovative small-scale technologies in flexible and mobile processing units to be used in regional food systems.
Most of food is produced out of the farm in food processing plants which put farmers in the role of raw material suppliers. FOX approach allows them to check the possibilities and eventually extend their portfolio by offering added-value products which were manufactured from their raw material or its surplus and thus it fits to short supply food chains. Such approach fits to current demands of consumers which seek for more "transparent" goods. Currently, there is not a lot of mobile food processing solutions and existing ones use traditional techniques. FOX devices will allow to use the innovative processing and preservation methods such as pulsed electric field (PEF) or infrared-drying. FOX makes it therefore possible that farmers and cooperatives can use innovative technologies that are currently not available on small scale.
The consumer engagement approach will be continued in the context of local food systems and inventories will be finalized with an end-line study. Knowledge is generated by various life cycle assessment analyses and a view on potential business models about the impact of developed FOX units on environment, economy, society and health. The unique selling point and benefits of this integrated approach compared to market-available technologies and solutions will be addressed in the business model development.