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ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES FOR HIGH QUALITY, SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE REGIONAL FOOD PRODUCTION

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DRIFT-FOOD (ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES FOR HIGH QUALITY, SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE REGIONAL FOOD PRODUCTION)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-03-31

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
1. Absence of the research team in the area of Food processing and technology at the beneficiary institution - Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources at CZU Prague. These activities will fulfil the gap in the research area of food production and processing.
2. Low innovative impact on local farmers. In a highly competitive environment Czech agricultural and food companies have lost their innovation potential and until now they are strongly dependent on the import of know-how and technologies. The innovation potential should be driven mainly by SMEs, universities and research institutions that, on the other hand, are lacking resources in terms of access to such technologies, skilled personnel and novel ideas.

Why is it important for society?
To increase the interest of public for regional and healthy foods with their preserved biological value. Czech society has interest in regional, sustainable and healthy food products. This provides an opportunity to offer food-processing technologies to regional producers. The consumers in Czechia as well as in the EU focus on the quality of food on market. Non-confirmed double standards in food products have resonated strongly in the Czech society. The support of regional food production is one of the food policy strategies in the Czech Republic. This is also one of the priorities of the European Union as well as the support of equality among member states in terms of food quality. The agri-food sector is a strategic asset of all the European Countries and one of the largest and most important economic activities in the EU.

What are the overall objectives?
The main objectives of the project are 1: to establish an excellent team of food technologists: The establishment of the DRIFT-FOOD team of excellence strengthens the presence of the University, Prague/Central Bohemian region and the Czech Republic at European and International level in regards to advanced technologies for high quality, safe and sustainable regional food production. DRIFT-FOOD is the first ERA Chair project in the field of food production, quality, and innovative food technology in Central Europe. An important aspect of this team's work is to achieve scientific excellence through international scientific cooperation and integration in the field of food technology, processing of agricultural production and, more broadly, nutrition, safety and food quality.
2: to enhance scientific and educational excellence and strengthen scientific knowledge in the field of food technology: The activities of the DRIFT-FOOD team will support new food processing method development as well as basic and frontier research, education and training in the field of agriculture, food technology and nutrition. Research activities will create an impact on all steps along the pathway of the food chain, from primary production up to human health, with particular attention to agri-food production. Being used in practice, the impact of ERA Chair-activities will positively influence the quality of life of European citizens.
3: to enhance high quality, safe and sustainable regional food production: The project will bring the main research outputs in the field of agri-food production, agricultural products quality, and food processing and technology to the farmers and small producers not only in the Czech Republic, but also in other European countries. The project will support the communication of new interdisciplinary research outputs to the society to improve its knowledge regarding processing and quality of food and its nutritional values with the aim to provide better comprehension of direct impact of quality food on human health.
The main tasks of the 1st periodic report have been:
- To advertise for and appoint an ERA Chair Holder
- To assemble the research team
- To create a managerial and administrative frame within which the DRIFT-FOOD team will be able to work and grow.
- To form an evaluation tools for measuring the project impact
- To initiate and maintain communication and dissemination activities towards different stakeholders
This main tasks were reflected by the 12 related deliverables scheduled throughout the whole 1st project period. While the achievement and development in all deliverables covered in the 1st periodic report will be described in the next chapter, here we would like to summarize progress regarding the main goals and tasks to be pursued. During the 1st project period the project team overcame difficulties related to the Covid-19 pandemics and succeeded in appointing of the ERA Chair holder and recruitment of the team members. The ERA Chair Holder has been based at the Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources at CZU Prague since January 2022 and became an important part of the academic community within the faculty and university. The four member DRIFT-FOOD research team have been recruited and we are expecting them on board in June/July 2022. In cooperation with the ERA Chair holder the project team submitted as a coordinator the project proposal in the call HORIZON-CL6-2022-CLIMATE-01-04 - Fostering the resilience of food security: from observation of changes to the development of resilience strategies. The project proposal with the total budget over 14.5 mil. EUR was submitted in 23th February 2022. The ERA Chair holder advertised for four PhD positions, which were filled in by international candidates (March 2022).The PhD students are expected to join the team in October 2022. The communication and dissemination strategies were set and started to be fulfilled. The ERA Chair Holder, prof. Constantinos Stathopoulos, introduced himself to the broad academic public in the interview for the Czech academy press.
The DRIFT-FOOD team which is expected to deliver the ambitious results is currently (spring 2022) being assembled. However, we are convinced that the goals for the project involving institutional changes, increasing of international visibility, significant raise of scientific excellence, gaining of competitive funding and contribution to the development of new technologies will be achieved. The team of scientists is focused on food technology and our research has wide socio-economic potential. Sustainability is currently a major issue, so the DRIFT-FOOD will focus on a variety of research opportunities, such novel protein sources, utilisation of waste-products and meeting consumers’ demands and expectations. For these three priorities, we need to explore protein sources such as algae and insects, we must enable the reclaiming of the by-products and waste-produce and ensure all useful ingredients find our way into the food chain, and try to engage in using novel technologies with minimal heat. Further specific examples could include edible films, complex emulsions, meat analogues and more. The team will have the unique opportunity to test invented lab-based processes and products in the newly built faculty Food Technology Centre fully equipped with new full-scale technologies for food production. This synergy creates perfect conditions to bring the new technologies and food products from the laboratory to the market with the huge positive impact for EU consumers, increased sustainability of the food production and mitigation of food losses.
The new ERA Chair Holder, Costas Stathopoulos and the Management Committee of the DRIFT-FOOD project