Fruits and vegetables have very short shelf life and they decay very fast. The decomposed fruits and vegetables create microbes and pathogens, which are health hazards.India, being the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, the post harvest losses are of Rs.40,000 crores. In view of this, Prof(Dr) H M Chawla, of the Chemistry Department of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Delhi) developed the biodegradable emulsion named FruWash for the extension of the shelf life of the fruit and vegetable from 6 days to 6 weeks.
A prolonged shelf-life could contribute to reducing food waste in different parts of chain from harvesting to consumption. Innovative edible organic coatings made using agri-food production waste to maintain nutritional values unaltered for longer without affecting flavour. This new concept comes from the University of Pisa, Italy.
Annamaria Ranieri teaches Agricultural chemistry and her research focuses on using natural edible biopolymers to maintain the nutritional qualities of fruit unaltered during storage.
"As a scientific community, we are studying how to achieve virtuous and sustainable waste management. The objective is to supply produce with unaltered organoleptic qualities."
One of the two studies was conducted on Fuji apples. Researchers used gelatin as a coating, i.e. a collagen-based polymer obtained from the processing of connective tissue and largely used for capsules in the pharmaceutical industry. The second study focused instead on tomatoes, which were coated with chitosan, a polymer that derives from chitin, i.e. a substance found in the exoskeleton of shellfish and in fungal cell walls."The two coatings can be removed simply by washing the fruit and they slowed down harvesting by three days, as testified by the delayed accumulation peak of important nutritional compounds such as carotenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids."
FruWash is a biodegradable emulsion, through which shelf life of harvested fruits and vegetables can be extended for a long time (without refrigeration). Compared with unwashed fruits, the shelf life of such washed fruits increases from three days to six weeks at ambient high temperatures (10-45 degree C). It has the potential to enable the producers, traders and consumers to reduce the post harvest losses up to more than 40 percent according to TIFAC Study. Therefore, it is assumed that this technology in the long term can help reduce the prices for the consumer and increase the income of poor farmers.
The proof of concept of extending shelf life of fruits and vegetables by using a natural product derived from abundantly available Indian bioresource and its efficacy has already been provided by real life demonstrations in eleven different states of the Indian Union. National laboratories and universities at Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Lucknow and Gorakhpur have asccomplished collection of scientific, toxicological and microbiological data.
It is felt that if the technology is disseminated in rural areas engaged in vegetable and fruit production, it will not only considerably save fruits and vegetables from getting wasted (currently valued at Rs.40,000 crores a year) but will also contribute significantly to avoid solid wastes which are difficult to clean up with consequent serious health concerns. Accrual of gains by adoption of this technology are huge and difficult to assess accurately but it is amply clear that the cost of prevention of pollution is much less than treatment of solid and biological wastes and finding solutions to associated health problems when the epidemic sets in than not to allow it to spread. The post harvest losses directly affect all the producers, suppliers and consumers who are forced to pay higher prices due to extensive losses in the marketing chain Quality deterioration is quite substantial during the transport fruits and vegetables from the F&V producing region to consumers. It has been observed that the farm gate price available to the farmers is only 25 percent of the retail price in India, as compared to 70 percent in the Netherlands and USA.
Krishi Jagran, Delhi