The University of Naples Federico II (UNINA) was founded in the 1224 and since 2013 it is organized in four schools and 26 departments. UNINA Research at the Department of Agricultural Sciences (DIA) covers a wealth of research subjects related to: agriculture, food science and technology, and environment. These sectors are of great significance considering one of the most important challenges of the next few decades: the need to feed a world population that by 2040 will reach about 9 billion people. The mission of the DIA is to promote teaching and research activities to create new knowledge, solve cutting-edge problems and develop new insights for both basic and applied research. The scientific relevance and international recognition of DIA research products positioned, for the year 2017, the University of Naples Federico II as number two in Agricultural Sciences in Italy among the top 18 Universities evaluated, 12 out of 130 in Europe, and 45 out of 300 in the world (see National Taiwan World University Ranking). DIA participates in many national and international R&D&I and scale up projects supported by public and private investments in the agro-food sector and environmental management. Among the 10 research divisions of the DIA, the Food Science and Technology (FST), Microbiology (M) and Biology and Protection of Agricultural and Forest Systems will be involved in this project.
The expertise of the three divisions are:
The mission of the FST division is to promote research activities in order to guarantee safe, innovative, sustainable, top quality foods and beverages. The most relevant research topics concern: the optimization of traditional and innovative food processing and preservation; the design and development of new foods and food ingredients, new technology and processes, new packaging materials; the development of innovative procedures to assess the physical, chemical, nutritional, health and sensory properties of foods and beverages and to study consumers’ behavior; the sustainable management of resources and transformation processes; the valorisation of raw materials, products and by-products. The main research areas involved in the project are focused on food packaging and shelf life, food structure and physical properties, sensory evaluation and consumer science.
The Division of Microbiology aims to develop basic and applied research activities in the thematic areas of Microbiology. The main areas of research concern: development of novel technologies for food preservation by natural antimicrobials such as bacteriocins and plant extracts to inhibit the microbial growth in many food matrices; development and use of protective and starter cultures of Lactic Acid Bacteria, coagulase negative staphylococci and Yeast for food products; application of natural antimicrobials (i.e. bacteriocins and essential oils) to traditional plastic materials and biopolymers in order to produce active food packaging with antimicrobial properties; use of essential oils and their components to fight spoilage and pathogenic bacteria and investigation of their mechanism of action by using omics procedures; studies of the spoilage-related activities of microbial populations and their changes in response to the use of different storage systems and conditions; study of the resident microbiota in food-processing environments and its influence on food safety and quality; technologically relevant activities of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeast useful to improve the quality of leavened baked food; use of advanced metagenomic tools and high-throughput sequencing to assess the structure and the functions of food, environmental and human microbiome in response to treatments, diet or environmental factors; studies on the detection and culture-independent monitoring of the microorganisms associated to fermented foods and to food fermentations; encapsulation of pro-technological microorganisms and probiotics to protect them from technological pressure and gastrointestinal environment; evaluation of probiotic features in strains isolated from food environments and development of novel foods for probiotics delivering to human body; microbial ecology of natural habitat (compost, vegetable biomasses, soil) as source of new microbial strains and enzymes; isolation, identification and biotecnological selection and application of microbial cultures for eco-friendly agriculture, green technology and bioremediation; study of the deterioration of cultural heritage by bacteria and fungi through cultural and molecular methods to identify the main microbial agents implicated in the biodecay of artworks in indoor and/or outdoor environments.
The main research areas involved in the project are focused on food antimicrobial packaging and on the studies of the microbial populations during the storage of food and its changes in response to the use of different storage systems and conditions.
From Biology and Protection of Agricultural and Forest Systems division, some researchers of UNINA group works on system dynamic modelling with application in the following different fields: Vegetation modelling, Cell population modelling, C-cycle modelling, Software tools and theoretical aspects and Decision Support Systems. This group will support other research groups without modelling expertise in the implementation of models in their specific field of interest.
UNINA will play the role of Scientific and Technical coordinator, assisting the Project Coordinator in the technical management of the SHEALTHY project.
UNINA will lead WP5 Analysis and assessment of processed food properties and consumers perception, including public heal concern to support the achievement of the project outputs and results. The main tasks will be the characterization of the prototype products in terms of chemical, physical, microbiological (for safety), and sensory analysis. Moreover, UNINA will be involved in the quantification of the shelf-life extension thanks to the new product e/o process implemented. UNINA will collaborate with SDU and ADICONSUM to evaluate the consumer perception of the combined mild technologies and new product.
UNINA will be also involved in WP1 Definition and optimization of combined non-thermal preservation methods (mild technologies) at lab scale. The main objective will be the optimization of active coating e/o film for fresh-cut F&V. To this aim the main tasks will be (i) the development of antimicrobial substance; (ii) microencapsulation of active substance; (iii) optimization of coating/film composition; (iv) evaluation of the efficacy of the coating/film. UNINA will be also responsible for the developing of a DSS and will be responsible for the modelling activities of WP1 (task 1.3.1.): Model design, implementation and test.
UNINA also contribute in terms of innovation, dissemination, knowledge transfer and training activities in WP7.