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A natural origin nanocomposite prototype, evaluated to offer solutions to fruit and vegetable sector

This prototype is being tested by INIA Chile for its application on the surface of fruit and vegetable products such as blueberries, cherries, table grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and recently in leafy vegetables.

4/26/2021

Nanotechnology laboratory tests.

The presence of multi-resistant microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) present in fruit and vegetables has forced the agri-food industry to search for antimicrobial materials that are effective to control the microorganisms present on the surface of food and / or to preserve their quality and shelf life after harvest.

The Food Bionanotechnology Laboratory of INIA La Cruz (Chile) is developing and studying the behavior of a nanocomposite of natural origin and food grade with biodegradable characteristics, low environmental impact, capable of being fixed on food surfaces.

This study is part of the project "Support for initiation in agri-food biotechnology research", financed by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, and directed by the biochemist and doctor in biotechnology Sebastián Molinett Soto.

The agricultural engineer Dr. Juan Pablo Martínez, the biotechnology technician, Camila Martínez; from INIA La Platina, the phytopathologist, Dra. Danae Riquelme; and, the postharvest specialist, Dr. Bruno Defilippi. In addition, this project has the international collaboration of Dr. Lorenzo Pastrana, from the Iberian International Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) in Braga, Portugal. This work team is relevant because bionanotechnology is a highly interdisciplinary branch of science.

This technology is based on nanoparticles containing bioactives with antimicrobial properties of natural origin, structures with polymers and stabilizers of plant origin. This prototype is being evaluated, under controlled laboratory conditions, for its application on the surface of fruit and vegetable products such as blueberries, cherries, table grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and recently in leafy vegetables.

These fresh foods were coated with this prototype to study their impact on the shelf life of these fruits and vegetables as well as their ability to control the proliferation of unwanted microorganisms.

This innovation is designed to be used as a coating, which would be applied in the field or in an agro-industrial plant, to be fixed on the surface of fresh food.

Some nanocomposites have shown great antiviral and antibacterial capacity. Therefore, this type of development could provide solutions to contribute to food safety assurance systems, in order to prevent problems related to the presence of ETA viral pathogens such as Norovirus (NoV) and Hepatitis A virus (HAV), as well as bacterial pathogens ETA Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Listeriria monocytogenes, among others. Additionally, it could constitute a solution to prevent the presence of the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) on the surface of fruit and vegetable products and their packaging.

The emphasis of this study, the specialist reaffirms, "is that it could contribute to mitigating the risk of microbiological contamination of fruit shipments to export markets."
The breakdown of the cold chain creates the conditions for the proliferation of these microorganisms. It is here when these technologies offer a control mechanism for the emergence of these contaminations.

The specialist specified, “we are thinking of controlling some important problems in the postharvest of some fruits and vegetables caused by fungi such as Botryitis, Penicillium and Botryosphaeria and bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Clavibacter.

In addition, the researcher explained that “these nanoparticles, which are between 200 and 300 nanometers in diameter, release their bioactives in a controlled way; and they do it with greater speed when the cold storage chain is broken, which allows complementing the basic technologies for the control of these pathogens that are going to be on the surface of the vegetable or fruit ”.

The expert specified that "nanotechnology is characterized by increasing the effectiveness of a certain material by modifying its size and shape, enhancing and / or improving the original properties of the matter." These experimental studies, he adds, "that offer new technologies and opportunities for agribusiness, are inserted within this revolutionary and emerging discipline."

This research constitutes a foundation stone and the aspiration of INIA is to continue promoting this area. While it is true, said the expert, "for now we have not carried out studies in agroindustrial plants, our interest is to project this work towards carrying out pilot tests on an industrial scale.

INIA Chile

The Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) is the main agri-food research, development and innovation institution in Chile. Linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, it has a national presence and a work team of more than 1,000 highly qualified people. It executes an average of 400 projects per year around 5 strategic areas: Climate Change, Sustainability, Food of the Future, Emerging Technologies, and Extension and Capacity Building. These initiatives contribute to the sustainable agri-food development of the country, creating value and proposing innovative solutions to farmers, strategic partners and society, generating a social profitability that varies between 15% and 25%, for each peso invested in each of its projects.


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