Queensland University of Technology researches better fresh produce storage

After examining plant tissue behaviour and how biological cells behave when dehydrated or dried, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers are designing ways to better store fresh food.

Computational scientist Dr Charith Rathnayaka is investigating the physics, mathematics, and biology of agricultural cell structures to improve food production. He said the findings of this study have the potential for better designs for industrial drying of fruits, vegetables, or any other plant biological material.

Foodanddrinkbusiness.com.au quoted Rathnayaka as saying: "By developing the computational model, it is possible to estimate how the cells are being damaged when they are being processed for preservation, storage or packaging. This innovation has the potential to influence the future of food drying processes globally in terms of reducing cost, optimising food processing, energy conservation and increasing dried food shelf life.”

When testing the model, Rathnayaka had the apples simultaneously dried and imaged, then compared to the prediction from simulations.  It revealed the microscopic tissues of the apple and the differences between fresh conditions and extremely dried conditions.

“One specific reason for using apple as representative plant-food material was due to the abundant availability of experimental findings," he said. “It showed that by controlling the processing conditions such as temperature, pressure, humidity and processing speed, it is possible to control the damage on apple cells to extract the best nutritional value.”

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