Maintaining and extending the freshness of stored fresh foods is a growing challenge. The FAO estimates that 1/3 of food globally is wasted or lost – 1.3b tonnes, equal to almost 1trillion USD, with fruit and vegetables having the highest wastage rates.

This project focuses on potatoes in controlled storage, where due to a closed environment early detection of defects or disease is near impossible to determine, resulting in 15-50% food wastage. Cranfield scientists are looking to use sensors connected to a real-time, interactive system to help flag problems before they result in spoilage.

  • DatesSeptember 2017 – December 2019
  • SponsorInterreg NWE (EU regional development fund)
  • Funded3.2m EUR (Cranfield ~300,000 EUR)
  • PartnersVlaams Centrum voor Bewaring van Tuinbouwproducten, STOREX Belgie BVBA, Landwirtschaftskammer Niedersachsen, Obstbauversuchsanstalt Jork, NKT Photonics A/S, Sensor Sense BV

The project aims to develop a storage system to help businesses to detect defects and diseases before they result in food waste. Currently fresh food is normally stored in low temperature, low light, often modified environments (e.g. high C02 levels) to help prolong freshness, however storage is sealed and there is no way of seeing inside to assess quality.

Cranfield scientists will be focusing on one aspect of the project; potatoes. They plan to place laser sensors inside potage storage containers to detect volatile organic compounds, the early signs of spoilage. Determining the parameters of the equipment, and the appropriate levels of volatile compound that will flag where there is an issue, is essential to ensuring the system will be efficient and effective.

The sensors will be connected to an interactive system that flags issues in real-time, helping businesses to make informed decisions on when to open and sell their product. This technology will not only reduce waste, but will make North-West Europe more competitive.

A prototype will be built in the Netherlands, and hosted on Cranfield campus where evaluation and modification will take place, utilising Cranfield’s expertise in the areas of food storage and sensor-diagnostics.

This is an EU project, led by Radboud Universiteit, involving a consortium of universities and private companies.

Further Information

Two PhD students were recruited in January 2017 to support this project.