10th, 11th, 12th November 2020
via Zoom


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How packaging, technology and innovation can reduce food waste for fresh produce

Karli Verghese

Fight Food Waste Co-operative Research Centre, Adelaide & RMIT University, GPO Box 247, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia

Tackling food waste requires collaboration across the entire food supply chain, from producers through to consumers. Maintaining food quality, nutrition, safety are also of paramount importance in the fresh produce sector. The role that packaging, technology and innovation plays will be discussed through case studies. Understanding consumer perceptions of packaging and technology will also be presented.

High performing VOC phenomics to improve the horticultural supply chain

Brian Farneti

Genomics and Biology of Fruit Crop Department, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione E. Mach, Trento, Italy

The current crucial mission of the agro-food industry is to guarantee food safety and, at the same time, improve perceived food quality and fulfil consumer expectations. To address this issue a broad and objective quality detection of food products is needed. Examples of key quality traits for the agro-food industry are the development of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with the shelf life and taste quality of fruit and vegetables. However, the so called “phenotyping bottleneck”, caused by the absence of high-throughput and non-invasive methodologies, impedes an effective evaluation and prediction of food VOCs.

The extreme complexity of food VOC aroma, both families of compounds and concentration ranges, is a challenging issue for any existing analytical technology. The rapid development of mass spectrometry (MS) application in metabolomic studies had a significant impact in the field of VOC analysis. The progress of MS techniques is mostly focused on instrumental improvements of mass resolution, mass accuracy, sensitivity, and enhanced reproducibility. Direct injection mass spectrometric (DI-MS) techniques, such as Proton Transfer Reaction – Time of Flight - Mass Spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS) and Selected Ion Flow Tube – Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS), have opened new possibilities for food aroma analysis by decreasing the time needed for sample preparation and analysis, and by providing the possibility of non-destructive, real time and high-throughput volatilome analysis. These achievements enhanced the relevance of VOC assessment into horticultural modelling, for instance to better predict the product shelf-life or to estimate the final quality of a processed food based on the raw material.

This presentation aims to review several prototypical analytical approaches, based on chemical ionization mass spectrometry, suitable to address the aroma complexity of agro-food products in different situations: i) non-destructive VOC assessment; ii) high-throughput automated headspace analysis; iii) dynamic destructive analysis; iv) real-time process monitoring. 

Tailored pre- and post-harvest studies confirmed the potentials of DI-MS application into the whole agro-food production chain, from breeding to consumers. These studies allowed us to estimate the interaction between genetic variability, ripening stages and storage condition on the perceived quality of several fruit species (i.e. apple, strawberry, and blueberry). Another important outcome was the development of putative VOC biomarkers linked with fruit spoilage caused, for instance, by the occurrence of postharvest disorders (i.e. superficial scald or anoxic stress) or by fresh-cut processed deterioration.

The fruit ENCODE project reveals the origins of fruit ripening mechanisms 

Silin Zhong

School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Fleshy fruit ripening has evolved many times throughout angiosperm history, and many species require the plant hormone ethylene.  Much of what we know about this process comes from the study of tomato, where ethylene, transcription factors and whole-genome demethylation are critically involved.  But the precise molecular mechanism and whether it is conserved in other species remains largely unknown.  Inspired by the human ENCODE project, we began to systematically profile gene expression, chromatin accessibility, H3K27me3 and DNA methylation dynamics during fruit development in 11 fleshy fruit species.  When we analyzed the fruit ENCODE data, we realized that climacteric fruits without a recent whole-genome duplication (WGD) such as peach, melon and papaya utilize a common angiosperm senescence-related NAC transcription factor to create a positive feedback loop to synthesize the autocatalytic ethylene.  For plants that have undergone a recent WGD like tomato, apple and pear, they evolved a loop by neofunctionalization of the duplicated MADS-box transcription factors. Banana, a monocot climacteric species that diverged from eudicot over 100 myr and has undergone three recent WGDs, uses a leaf senescence-related NAC transcription factor to generate a positive feedback loop and an additional loop with three MADS-box transcription factors that makes its ripening ethylene independent once initiated.  It turns out that DNA methylation changes associated with ripening genes is unique for tomato.  All climacteric fruits we examined, including tomato, appears to have utilized H3K27me3 to regulate key ripening and ethylene synthesis genes.  One of the lessons we learnt from this project is that developmental processes such as ripening are controlled by a complex and redundant regulatory network.  If we want to fully understand it, we might need to adopt a more holistic approach considering regulatory inputs from multiple dimensions such as 3D chromatin organization, DNA methylation, chromatin accessibility, histone modification and TF regulatory networks.


The work is supported by Hong Kong UGC GRF grants 14111918 and 14108117, as well as AoE/M-403/16.