The fresh produce supply chain is highly unsustainable worldwide: 33% of the produced fruit and vegetables is either lost or wasted, of which 10% occurs during long-term storage. Today, controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facilities are quite common, i.e., storage at lowered temperatures, low oxygen concentrations and elevated CO2 levels. Metabolic processes in CA-stored products, like fruits and vegetables, are slowed down and thus ripening and aging are delayed. Research into these processes is very important to further optimize storage conditions. The monitoring of trace gases released by the stored crop gives information on these processes, e.g., on their fermentative state, ripening phase and potential damage. High levels of metabolic products may serve as an indicator to optimize the CA conditions. Thus, ethanol and acetaldehyde are indicative for the fermentation, ethylene also accompanies ripening of fruits, ethane and pentane are gaseous end products of lipid peroxidation. The instrumentation available at the Facility allows to study the dynamics of the volatile organic compounds released under any storage conditions (Figure 1). The information on the methodology and the scientific results are presented in multiple published articles [1,2]. A previously built prototype was built within the EU-funded project: QCAP Interreg (2017-2019), and it has demonstrated proof-of performance in the relevant research environment (Figure 2)
Figure 1 Monitoring fermentation of apples held under low oxygen atmosphere.
MAX-FRESH is a business-driven project with the main objective of quick deployment of an innovative solution that fulfills an urgent need for superior monitoring and control of storage atmosphere in large-scale storage facilities for fresh agriculture products. In the MAX-FRESH project, we aim to take the final steps and launch an innovative interactive storage system, called ISS-Monitor (Figure 3) The MAX-FRESH project is performed by a complementary consortium of 3 market-leading industrial partners and 1 academic partner, combining cutting-edge technologies with unique expertise.
Figure 2 The MAX-FRESH project builds on a functional prototype which demonstrated proof-of performance in a relevant environment. This earlier prototype was developed within the EU-funded project (QCAP Interreg, 2017-2019)
ISS Monitor is the world’s first automated multi-species trace gas sensor that can simultaneously and in real-time detect low levels of seven (7) volatile gases that indicate ripening, fermentation, damage or rotting of stored fruit. Once unfavorable conditions are detected, the ISS-Monitor will provide automated alerts to enable timely and effective interventions by its customers. The ISS-Monitor has the potential to reduce losses of stored fresh food by 50%, extend storage life with 20%, and reduce post-harvest chemical treatments with 50%.
Figure 3 Innovative interactive storage system (ISS)-Monitor developed in the MAX-FRESH project.
More about this research?
 Khalil Eslami Jahromi, Mohammadreza Nematollahi, Roderik Krebbers, Muhammad Ali Abbas, Amir Khodabakhsh, Frans JM Harren, “Fourier transform and grating-based spectroscopy with a mid-infrared supercontinuum source for trace gas detection in fruit quality monitoring”, Optics Express 29 (8), 2021 (Link)
 Khalil Eslami Jahromi, Mohammadreza Nematollahi, Qing Pan, Muhammad Ali Abbas, Simona M Cristescu, Frans JM Harren, Amir Khodabakhsh, “Sensitive multi-species trace gas sensor based on a high repetition rate mid-infrared supercontinuum source”, Optics Express 28 (18), 2020 (Link)
More about the MAX-FRESH project: click here.