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Maximizing freshness and minimizing losses of agriculture products through automated atmosphere management in storage facilities

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MAX-FRESH (Maximizing freshness and minimizing losses of agriculture products through automated atmosphere management in storage facilities)

Reporting period: 2021-10-01 to 2022-09-30

Today, the fresh produce supply chain is highly unsustainable: 33% of the produced fruit and vegetables is either lost or wasted, of which 10% occurs during long-term storage. This loss also has a major financial impact on the food industry. For stored apples, pears and blueberries alone, the global economic loss equals €6.1 billion per year. However, a significant part of current storage losses could be prevented if only continuous monitoring of stored products was possible so that appropriate measures can be taken.

In the MAX-FRESH project, we will develop the innovative ISS-Monitor: world’s first automated multi-species trace gas sensor that can simultaneously and in real-time detect low levels of 7 volatile gases that indicate ripening, fermentation, damage or rotting of stored fruit. Once unfavorable conditions are detected, the ISS-Monitor will provide automated alerts to enable timely and effective interventions by its customers. The ISS-Monitor has the potential to reduce losses of stored fresh food by 50%, extend storage life with 20%, and reduce post-harvest chemical treatments with 50%.

The MAX-FRESH project builds on a functional prototype of the ISS-Monitor which demonstrated proof-of performance in a relevant environment. During the MAX-FRESH project, we will take the final steps required to launch the ISS-Monitor on the market. To do so, we apply for €2.2 million (77%) from the EC. The MAX-FRESH project will be performed by a complementary consortium of 3 market-leading industrial partners and 1 academic partner, combining cutting-edge technologies with unique expertise. After completing the MAX-FRESH project in 2023, the ISS-Monitor will be ready for market launch. By doing so, the ISS-Monitor will make an impact on the global food production system by contributing to sustainable food production for the ever-growing world population.

The shared goal of the MAX-FRESH consortium is to introduce a commercially viable version of the ISS-Monitor on the market upon completion of this project. To reach this goal, the following project objectives have been set:

Objective 1: Industrial prototyping of the existing advanced ISS-Monitor towards a commercially viable model that meets all technical, qualitative and quantitative requirements.

Objective 2: Optimize software and user-interface of the ISS-Monitor system for automated analysis and alerts and to ensure compatibility and easy integration with current storage monitoring and control equipment.

Objective 3: Set up and scale up ISS-Monitor manufacturing for demonstration and commercialization
purposes, and verify that ISS-Monitor meets all regulatory requirements and specifications.

Objective 4: Validate and demonstrate the ISS-Monitor in an operational environment.

Objective 5: Perform business development activities to optimally prepare for market launch and
commercialization of the ISS-Monitor.
The development, integration, and assembly of the first ISS-Monitor (ISS-Monitor-1) were accomplished in RP2. The hardware control, automated measurements, and data analysis are performed within an integrated software package based on LabVIEW. In addition to ISSPro, Individual functionalities and hardware control can be done via individual software modules. While completing the development of the prototype, design aspects were modified to improve the overall system performance. In the end, the system was tested, and the performance, specifications, and requirements were evaluated.

Based on the outcomes and the experience with the ISS-Monitor-1, the design and layout of the second system were fully revisited, and in some cases, we changed the parts and components. For instance, the temperature control unit for the optical setup and the rack was improved considerably. Furthermore, we added a separate temperature control unit for the SC laser to allow more stable measurements. We also added multiple safety features for the temperature control system. Several units such as the gas handling system, water trap, and electronic assembly were modified to be modular for easy maintenance and service. The body and frame of the ISS-Monitor are changed for a lighter, yet strong system.

In RP2, the MAX-FRESH consortium also prepared for the fabrication of two additional ISS-Monitor systems. Almost all parts and components were received, and the assembly of ISS-Monitor-2 is in progress. MAX-FRESH project and methodology were also presented at several national and international scientific conferences.
Despite the availability of some electronic components, the first industrial prototype was made ready by August 2022.
The MAX-FRESH project will enable rapid market launch and uptake of the ISS-Monitor, a one-of-its-kind innovation that will revolutionize the fresh food industry, thereby creating a significant impact on both the consortium partners, the fresh food supply chain, and society. Details of expected impacts are set out below :

A Fast commercial take-up of a sustainable innovative solution for tackling societal challenges
This is a business-driven project with the main objective of quick deployment of an innovative solution that fulfills an urgent unmet need for superior monitoring and control of storage atmosphere in large-scale storage facilities for fresh agriculture products. Since the market leader in storage control equipment (Storex) with established sales and distribution networks in European and global markets is directly involved in this project, fast commercial uptake of ISS-Monitor is expected. This project directly addresses important societal challenges by providing an innovative solution for the EU Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “Sustainable and responsible food production” (SDG 12), “Good Health and well-being” (SDG 3), and “Zero hunger” (SDG 2). In addition, the MAX-FRESH project contributes to the mitigation of climate change impacts by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions during food production.

B Time to initial market take-up within 3 years after the beginning of this FTI project
The development of a market-ready ISS-Monitor is already well-advanced, as is the development of new sub-components that will be integrated within this project. Furthermore, the consortium possesses interdisciplinary expertise to ensure accelerated market uptake and commercialization of ISS-Monitor. Therefore, market launch is expected in Q2 2024 upon completion of the MAX-FRESH project.

C Addressing transnational value-chains and/or EU-wide or global markets
The MAX-FRESH project is an international collaboration of complementary partners from 4 different countries in the EU, including 3 industrial partners and 1 research partner. The project addresses the European and global markets, aiming to propel a European innovation and product as leading technology in the industry for storage of fresh agriculture products. With funding from the FTI Program, the consortium will be able to perform the necessary developments (e.g. development of market-ready product, manufacturing and upscaling, validation and demonstration, business development and exploitation) to accelerate the market launch and commercial uptake of the ISS-Monitor in Europe and beyond.
MAX-FRESH prototype of the ISS-Monitor