- SISTERS proposes cross-sector innovations to reduce food loss along the entire agri-food value chain by almost 30%
- In the first stage, the 18 partners have made progress in the development of the first European platform for producers to sell their surplus, and in the design of smart containers that will optimize food transport through sensors.
- In addition, the formulation of new bio-based materials, with improved recyclable and biodegradable properties, has been successfully initiated to create a new range of sustainable packaging
The SISTERS project, funded by the EU H2020 with more than 8 million euros and coordinated from Aitiip Technology Center, celebrates its first year of innovation. In these months, and thanks to the most advanced biotechnology, its 18 European partners are progressing in the development of a holistic system to reduce food waste by almost 30% along the entire value chain of the agri-food industry. During this first stage of the project, SISTERS has advanced in all its lines of research, becoming a pioneering initiative that seeks to establish a more sustainable economic, industrial, and social paradigm in Europe.
In the production stage, SISTERS is developing the first European platform (Short Chain Platform) for primary producers to sell directly to consumers those fruits and vegetables that do not meet market standards. That is, pieces that do not have a certain size or appearance required for further marketing but are perfectly suitable for consumption. To this end, SISTERS partners have conducted a feasibility study, through which they have analyzed the various technological solutions already available to prevent food waste and identify functionalities to incorporate them into the platform. In addition, an open-source fruit and vegetable database has been created to help producers quickly launch their e-commerce application to sell products they would otherwise discard.
In the logistics phase, SISTERS is developing smart containers to prevent the loss of fresh bulk or packaged food during transport. A first design has been completed for the prototype of the containers, as well as for the housing unit of the sensor kit that will be installed inside them and that will accurately measure environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, oxygen, carbon dioxide). These sensors will help ensure food safety and optimize shelf life, in addition to monitoring the condition of the transported food. Thanks to the sensors and their IoT tools, the data will be stored in a cloud that can be consulted in real time and that will allow the transport actors to propose action protocols in case, for example, the refrigeration system stops working.
As for the processing phase, SISTERS is developing new advanced and biological packaging materials with improved recyclable and biodegradable properties, which will favor the sustainability of the packaging product, the maintenance of the food and even its composting at home. New packaging formulations have been prepared, as well as enzymatic master compounds (additives) to make polylactic acid packaging biodegradable. The partners have initiated testing and characterization of these newly produced materials, which have already been successfully processed.
Finally, at the last stage of the chain, the consumer stage, SISTERS is implementing a new labeling coding based on QR technology that will provide vital product information to consumers: for example, provenance and the economic and environmental cost of food waste. After completing the state-of-the-art research stage (consumer perception of organic and biodegradable packaging), the main market barriers have been identified, which will serve as a basis for improving future European consumer habits.
Next step: Validation with 100 primary producers
Next year, the development of SISTERS innovations will progress in parallel. The first version of the Short Chain Platform is expected to be completed and validated with 100 primary producers, enabling optimizations. Regarding smart containers, the sensor kit for smart containers for bulk products will be completed, while for packaged products a prototype will be achieved. Validations of the smart containers will be initiated. For bio-based packaging, industrial partners will improve the most promising formulations.
The online consumer survey on packaging and labeling will be launched in at least 5 European countries, targeting at least 1,000 respondents. Work will continue to ensure impact and maximize the potential for exploitation of the results, with emphasis on preparing a preliminary impact plan and replicability plan, as well as effectively reaching out to high-level stakeholders and policy makers. Targeted dissemination and communication campaigns will be implemented to make the project widely visible to all stakeholders.
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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101037796.