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First meeting for the protagonists of the projects approved in July by the Veneto Region

"Italy: Longer shelf-life and "limitless" transport for vegetables"

Green light for the EcoORT "Competitività, sicurezza alimentare e shelf life: nuove tecnonolgie eco-compatibili per il comparto ortofrutticolo Veneto" project (Competitiveness, food safety and shelf life: new eco-friendly technologies for the Venetian fresh produce sector), which has the objective of developing technological innovations to extend the shelf-life of products as well as increase their healthiness and quality with eco-friendly systems.

EcoOrt would also like to influence the transportation phase, so as to reach further distances with perfectly preserved produce and lower costs. The project was approved by the Veneto Region in July and will carry on until June 2015.

On Friday 11th October, in Geofur's headquarters in Legnago, the first technical meeting to define the implementation plan took place.


Left to right: Ghirardi, Mazzeo, Carboni, Furiani, Sgardiolo and Tramonte.

Cristian Carboni, Ozone Application specialist of Industrie De Nora Next, Cristiana Fuiani from Geofur, Luca Sgardiolo from Ortoromi, Giacinto Tramonte from Bassano's fruit market, Alberto Ghirardi from Prs Passive refrigeration Solutions and Giuseppe Mazzeo from MG di Narducci Lucia took part. Cnr researchers Maria Cefola, Bernardo Pace and Leonardo Caputo, as well as Thaer Yassen from Iam - Istituto agronomico mediterraneo di Bari were connected via skype.

The Consortium for the safeguard of red chicory from Treviso and Variegato PgGI, the regional and provincial confcooperatives, Confagricoltura Verona and the Nordest and Verona Innovazione POs are also part of the project.

Carboni explained how EcoORT was created because of some basic needs - extend the shelf life of produce both during stocking and transportation, reduce transfer and energy costs of refrigeration plants and limit chemical treatments. 

During the meeting, it was decided that experiments will be carried out on four types of vegetables: white asparagus, late red chicory from Treviso, red chicory from Chioggia, sugarloaf and rocket. All of the produce will be supplied by the companies part of the project. Tests will include a confrontation between traditional and innovative (i.e. passive refrigeration with ozone) refrigeration techniques and shelf life examination using photos, panel tests and microbiological experiments.

The aim is to design and create some fixed (passive refrigeration unit with ozonizer) and transportable (passive refrigeration thermopallets with ozonizer) prototypes as well as define the perfect temperature, humidity and ozone concentration to preserve fresh produce thanks to experiments carried out by a research body and a transportation test. Cristiana Furiani explains how the final destination of the latter will be a big trade fair. In fact, the objective is to present the project at World Food Moscow 2014. A small preview will be given at Fruit Logistica in Berlin in February 2014.

Passive refrigeration will enable the preservation of the produce at temperatures close to zero, with no ventilation and higher humidity levels with respect to the traditional systems. This will extend the shelf life so that markets that are further away can be reached with less weight loss and better quality. 


Red chicory from Chioggia, one of the 5 products tested.

In addition, the fact that the system works autonomously, will enable the use of means that are not fitted for electricity connection such as non-reefer ships and trains. This in turn will lead to 30% savings for multimodal systems and 70% for maritime transport, all the while simplifying logistics. What is more, passive refrigeration in traditional units will favour the reduction of electricity consumption and the chance to "recharge" overnight, when costs are lower. Finally, passive refrigeration in thermopallets will enable them to refrigerate produce directly during harvesting.

Ozonization will guarantee mold-free products with reduced bacterial counts. Thanks to the oxidation of ethylene and other compounds, it will also prevent produce sensitive to ethylene and other volatile substances from ripening. Finally, the possible development of antioxidant or neutraceutical products could be beneficial both for companies and consumers. This was already proven by scientific partners for small fruits.

There was a lot of interest for "rough" red chicory preserved with passive and traditional refrigeration to obtain a fresh-cut produce with characteristics similar to the fresh product. The same happened for white asparagus, with the objective of extending the shelf-life.

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