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FieldFOOD Report Summary

Project ID: 635632
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FieldFOOD (Integration of PEF in food processing for improving food quality, safety and competitiveness)

Reporting period: 2015-04-01 to 2016-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Technological innovation represents a driving force to maintain and enhance the competitiveness of the European food industry in the global market place. The development of innovations able to impact the market are increasingly attracting for food processing industry and consumers once they can improve food quality and processing sustainability. Pulsed electric field technology (PEF) is an innovative food processing technology that has intensively investigated over the last decades. This process causes the increment of the permeability of the cytoplasmatic membranes of microorganisms and eukaryote cells of plant and animal tissues using low energy requirements whilst minimizing quality deterioration of the food compounds. PEF technology permits to pasteurize heat-sensitive liquid foods at lower temperatures than those used in thermal processing, to enhance mass transfer in different operations of the food industry (extraction of intracellular compounds of interest, dehydration, infusion of compounds in foods) and to modify food structure. However, currently in spite of the many demonstrated advantages deriving from the introduction of the PEF in the food industry, applications of this technology are is still limited.
Fieldfood represents an integrated approach to facilitate and speed up industrial exploitation of PEF by carrying out extensive demonstration activities with real food products and industrial prototypes in different food companies. The project necessary required a multidisciplinary consortium involving research institutions with well-established expertise in fundamental and applied aspects of PEF technology and SMEs. A company with knowledge and expertise in the design and development of pulse power modulators and food companies representing different production sectors in which exist clear benefits of the implementation of the PEF technology participate in FieldFOOD. Emphasis has been placed on plant based products including wine, olive oil, tomato, fruit juices and cider. Studies on economic feasibility and opportunities to improve the process sustainability in the food companies derived from the introduction of the PEF technology will be also covered.
The overall objective of FieldFOOD is to address successful, real-scale demonstrations of the viability of the introduction of the Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology as a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the European food industry by improving food quality (safety, nutritional, and sensorial properties), optimizing process efficiency, reducing energetic costs, and introducing new foods in the market.

This broad objective will be achieved by:

1- Conducting a systematic process analysis of different specific applications (e.g., fruit juice processing, tomato product processing, winemaking, olive oil extraction and cider-making) for a successful integration of the PEF technology in order to replace or complement existing traditional food processing technologies. This process analysis will allow accomplishing the following:

1.1 Identify the specific requirements of each application for designing tailored PEF equipment (e.g., generator, treatment chamber, and transport system of material).
1.2 Make adaptations and/or modifications of the current processing steps and processing parameters as a consequence of the introduction of the PEF technology in the processing line.

2- Design modular, portable, low-cost pulse generators with the possibility of connecting several modulators and transducers in series, according to the production capacity of the companies.

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

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

The central objective of FieldFOOD is to address successful real-scale demonstrations of the viability of the introduction of the PEF technology in the European food industry. During the first 18 months of the project it has been completed the required activities to achieve this goal.
The physico-chemical and microbial characterization of the raw material (grapes, olives, strawberries, cherries, apples and tomatoes) has been conducted and it has been established recommended protocols with the key characteristics of the different products that have to be monitored to permit understand the possible differences in the effect of PEF obtained in different varieties, degree of maturity or from season to season.
Experiments conducted at laboratory and pilot plant scale during this period have permitted to identify the most suitable treatment chambers configurations and PEF processing conditions for each specific application in the production lines of the different food companies. Furthermore it has been defined the treatment conditions of the related processing steps associated to the PEF treatment.
The PEF modulators and the associated software required to evaluate the PEF technology in the processing plants of the food companies involved in the project have been constructed. These modulators has already installed and assessed in the fruit juice company and in the tomato producer company and the decision support system to select the appropriate processing conditions has been evaluated in these companies.
Finally a protocol of a course to train technicians of the food companies on basic knowledge of the company and to use the PEF modulators safely and efficiently has been prepared and the training course has been taught in the fruit juice and tomato product companies.
In summary all the task required for the installation of the PEF modulators in the production lines of the industrial partners have been completed. This will permit to perform on-site studies in the plants of the food companies for two years with the purpose of evaluating the influence of the yearly variation in the raw material, to modify the PEF modulator if necessary and to derive reliable conclusions on the benefits/drawbacks of the technology for the different applications.

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)

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

The intense intellectual and economical efforts conducted in the last years demonstrating the feasibility of the integration of the PEF technology in the food industry, its versatility for different purposes and its low environmental impact make that at present the PEF technology is in the right maturity for developing innovative actions aiming to speed up development of PEF to support tomorrow's businesses and help innovative European food SMEs to grow into world-leading companies. FieldFOOD will facilitate the introduction of this novel technology by performing real-scale demonstrations of the viability of the technology for a number of applications and by supplying flexible, simple, low-cost processing tools based on the development of modular, tailored PEF processing units that currently do not exist in the market. It is expected that the estimated cost following 5 year after the end of the project represents an investment for the food companies of the 50% compared with the current equipment available in the market.
The FieldFOOD project is based on a preliminary analysis intended to identify the bottlenecks that cause such limited application in the food industry, with a clear strategy of providing SME companies (i.e., food producers, pulse power producers, and equipment manufacturers) with a clear competitive edge, as well as opportunities for growth, diversification, and job creation
Expected potential impact of the project will be:
- Optimize processing efficiency of the food companies by improving processing yields and improving productivity
- Developing foods that contribute to an individual´s health and wellbeing by reducing the addition of chemicals, increasing the concentration of bioactive compounds and reducing the negative effects of heating on food properties
- Reducing environmental impact of food processing by increasing energy efficiency, reducing energy inputs and reducing the amount of waste generated in the industrial food transformation
- Diversification for the companies based on the construction of pulse power generators and creation of new companies based in the renting of PEF equipment for specific sectors in which the activity is being concentrated in a short period of time that will lead to job creation
- Maintaining the European rural societies due to most of the industrial sectors involved in FieldFOOD are directly or indirectly related with rural economic activities

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