Interview with Dr. ÓSCAR RODRÍGUEZ, Senior Research Scientist in IRIS Technology Solutions and leader of the “Combination and Optimization of non-thermal mild processing at lab scale” work package.

  • What is the main role of your organization in this project?

IRIS is a Deep-Tech Engineering company specialized in Real Time Monitoring and Industrial Artificial Intelligence Solutions for driving improved process quality and efficiency for industry. By joining the SHEALTHY project, we want to bring Innovation to Industry by the creation and integration of high-end technologies such as photodynamic and acoustics in order to offer more sustained alternatives to the sanitation of F & V.

  •  What are the first findings after analyzing the application of non-thermal technologies for the sanitization of F&V?

The first work package has ended and results are promising. Non-thermal technologies such as power ultrasound and blue light have been tested in different F&V, specifically in leafy products like spinach and lettuce and fruits like cherry tomato and pear. On one hand, the purpose of reducing the application of chemical reagent during sanitation has been achieved. The application of power ultrasound has been carried out using only tap water. Although the results are still far from the expected ones in terms of microbicide effect, the combination of power ultrasound and electrolyzed or plasma activated water has proven the synergistic effect of both technologies without compromising the sensorial properties of the food products. Regarding the blue light application, a more beneficial effect (microbicide, fungicide) could be achieved during the storage of the product when temperature and humidity could be controlled without increasing the cost of production.

  • Which are the main challenges when combining non-thermal treatments for washing and sanitization?

One of the main challenges of the combination of technologies is the optimization of the combination. The optimal parameters of one technology might differ when combined with another technology at its optimal conditions. However, once this new optimal is achieved the next challenge is its adaptation to industrial scenarios. Frequently, the conventional sanitization systems should be modified at different levels to reach similar results to those observed at laboratory scale. Therefore, the need for tailored-made solutions for each industrial application and each product requires hard work at the laboratory and a fluid communication with the industry.

  • To finish, what is the future of processing of F&V?

Nowadays food processing contributes around ⅓ of the global greenhouse emissions, which indicates the huge impact that our diets have on climate change. For this reason, any effort to reduce this impact will benefit not only the future but the present of our planet. As technology companies, we should seek new strategies for food processing without the high consumption of resources such as water and electricity. We believe that the application of power ultrasound and photodynamic inactivation could help us to minimize the dependence of the natural resources. As consumers, we should change our consumption habits, reducing food waste by taking advantage of every single piece or by not discarding pieces due to their external appearance, but also very important, by buying seasonally and locally F&V.