Increase the useful life of blueberries is the goal of technology developed at the University of Santiago de Chile
According to a report by the Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (Odepa), the area planted, production and export of blueberries experienced an important growth in Chile in the last ten years, leading the rises among national fruits.
14.506 hectares were planted in 2014, which represented an increase of more than 1.000% when compared to the 1.360 hectares of 2005; production also increased -although in a lesser proportion-, and exports reached US $ 503,9 million in 2014, resulting in a growth of 383% for the area.
Chile exports between 60% and 70% of its production and prices, on average, have risen close to 20%. The business is auspicious, but this fruit in most cases must be moved thousands of kilometers to reach the main markets of destination with the danger of losing its freshness and quality.
With funding from the Technology Management Division of the University of Santiago de Chile, Dr. Silvia Matiacevich, a researcher at the Department of Food Science and Technology and head of the Food Technologist career, worked on a novel proposal to answer to this problem, whose results allowed the development of a prototype-equipment and a methodology to determine the permeability of the blueberry cuticle, an idea that has a patent application in Chile and also in the international PCT patent system.
In this study he worked together with Dr. Fernando Osorio, a researcher at the Department of Food Science and Technology, who explains that determining the permeability of the cuticle of this fruit is a very important factor, since it directly affects its quality.
"If the cuticle -which is the membrane through which the blueberry "communicates" with the outside- is not intact, the fruit can be up to twelve times more permeable, losing moisture or exposing itself to attacks by microorganisms. In this way, the main objective of this invention has been to create a methodology and equipment to measure and determine the physical properties of intact cuticles in vivo in a fast, simple and low-cost way.“he points out.
Dr. Silvia Matiacevich states that one of the main benefits of this invention is that as a team they were able to make a contribution, since, previously, numerous analyzes had been carried out on cuticle permeability, mainly of leaves of plants and fruits. , but isolating the cuticle, not in vivo, as was done in this case.
"So far, no simple and low-cost equipment has been made for measuring permeability (and free surface energy) in whole fruits under controlled conditions.", highlights.
Dr. Javier Enrione and Olivier Skurtys also collaborated in this study. The latter participated thanks to a PBCT Project of Conicyt, which was directed by Dr. Fernando Osorio.
On the other hand, Dr. Matiacevich tells that with funds from an Innova-Corfo project led by Dr. Osorio they worked on an edible film to cover the fruit, whose components are safe for health and do not alter the organoleptic characteristics (physical properties and chemistries), which has also been perceived in a good way by consumers who in sensory analysis have indicated that they do not find major differences between the fruits that have the coating and those that do not.
"Some time ago, in the shipments of blueberries to China the 90% did not arrive in good condition. With this system we estimate that this figure will be reversed and that the 90% will arrive well. And not only that, but they will have a longer time to be in the market“, clarifies the expert.
Dr. Osorio explains that in the stages of advancement of the research the results have been very positive and vary according to the cultivar of cranberry and the growing conditions in which they are, stating that in the industry there is great interest in solutions of this type and that now the great challenge will be to continue with a new project to get to transfer this development to the market. Dr. Matiacevich, meanwhile, says they will also work to apply this type of solutions in other food products.
Julia Pinto, technical manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, believes that anything that helps to maintain the condition of the fruit is good, since it must arrive fresh and safe to other destinations. From this point of view, she points out that the development of this film is a good tool to achieve the objective; However, she believes that it is essential to do commercial tests and generate the mechanisms for this invention to be packaged and available to companies. “The most important thing is to have a good quality and condition of fruit. Then the most important post-harvest technology is cold. And if this is accompanied by complementary technologies, much betterr"He concludes.
Previous articleIBO 2015 Summit