31 Mar 2023

A new research from Chile unveils a biodegradable pack

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In Chile, work is being done on biodegradable antifungal packaging for blueberries.

Research for active and intelligent packaging is now turning into an international trend. In Chile, the team atINIA La Platina's Postharvest Unit is working on generating an active compostable device, based on the use of different essential oils with antifungal activity, to extend the shelf life of blueberries intended for export.

The researcher in charge of the initiative is Pablo Ulloa, and he hopes to reduce the incidence of Botrytis cinerea post-harvest, without causing changes in the overall quality of the fruit, such as appearance, texture and flavor. In other words, to create an ecological device that avoids this problem and meets the needs of consumers, acting in a complementary way to the post-harvest technologies currently in use.

Pablo Ulloa, INIA research project manager. Photo: ResearchGate
Pablo Ulloa, INIA research project manager.

The team also includes post-harvest specialist and director of INIA La Platina, Bruno Defilippi, who indicated that nowadays there is an empowerment of consumers seeking agrochemical-free, healthy and environmentally friendly foods, and that containers or packaging systems that maintain these characteristics and extend shelf life should be considered in this trend.

Bruno Defilippi, post-harvest specialist and director of INIA La Platina. Photo: INIA.
Bruno Defilippi, post-harvest specialist and director of INIA La Platina.

Another expert, but from the food area, is the researcher from the same institute, Cristina Vergara, who works on stabilized natural additives as a potential use in food packaging systems. The three professionals have already presented previews of the results of this packaging device to an audience of specialists, and it is expected that this prototype will soon be scaled up for commercial testing of this technology.

Cristina Vergara, researcher at the INIA La Platina Institute. Photo: INIA.
Cristina Vergara, researcher at the INIA La Platina Institute.

María José Galotto, professor and researcher at the Centro de Innovación de Envases y Embalajes (Laben-chile) at the University of Santiago (Usach), one of the leading experts in the field of packaging, said that "INIA is working at an excellent level, in an area of knowledge in which they are at the forefront. Theyare moving in the same direction as what is being done in the world's leading research centers and have very promising results, so I can only congratulate the working group and know that this will have an important effect at the industrial level, which is what we all hope for."

María José Galotto is also director of 'Co-inventa Plataforma de Innovación envases y embalajes' and spoke about the effect this will have on consumers. "The consumer is always very discouraged when the product - fruits, vegetables - spoils at home. Having a longer shelf life and higher quality packaging will be a source of satisfaction for the consumer," he said.

María José Galotto, professor and researcher at the University of Santiago (Usach).
María José Galotto, professor and researcher at the University of Santiago (Usach).

North America, Europe and Asia are the main outlet markets for Chilean blueberries , renowned for its unparalleled quality. However, distance is one of the main factors in fruit deterioration, due to rot caused by Botrytis cinerea, which generates not only a loss of product, but also a reduction in value due to poor quality, Bruno Defilippi explained.

To cope with this problem, the blueberry industry has limited tools for post-harvest Botrytis control, which are based on pre-harvest management, mainly with fungicide application and supplemented, in some cases, with sulfur dioxide (SO2) gasification and the use of generators during packaging.

However, these technologies, in addition to not being 100 percent efficient, have limitations in terms of access to markets, such as that of the United States, and the generation of organoleptic deterioration of fruit under certain conditions.

Source: PortalFrutícola.com

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