The Resource Efficient and Safe Food Production and Processing (ResFood) project, funded under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) was launched on November 1 2012 and was designed to maximise resource productivity and recycling and the re-use of valuable materials.
Its aims were to develop and transfer innovative technologies for resource efficient and safe food production and processing that would minimise inputs while maximising the productivity of resources. At the same time effluent and biomass wastes would be minimised, while reusing and recycling of the resources where possible, and by recovering valuable, bio-based compounds from biomass wastes.
The project also aimed to develop affordable, safe and effective disinfection of pathogens, and techniques for detecting and monitoring of pathogenic contamination to secure food safety in the three main parts of the food chain: horticulture, food processing and biomass wastes.
The project addresses the three main parts of the food chain: horticulture, covering soil-based cultivation and soil-less cultivation; food processing, specifically looking at fresh cut fruit/vegetables and canning; and biomass wastes from horticulture, food processing and retail.
“The final year of the Resfood project has fast approached and the project partners are now harvesting the fruits of their research activities at various ongoing pilot tests,” said Resfood project coordinator Willy van Tongeren, who works for Dutch contract research organisation TNO.
“Thanks to these results, the Resfood partners will offer innovative technologies to boost the re-use and recycling of water in food production and processing, combined with energy and nutrients recovery, to regain valuable materials from organic waste and to take the safety [to] a higher level.”
The Europe 2020 Strategy calls for a bioeconomy as a key element for smart and green growth in Europe. EU has to contribute to the advances in bioeconomic research and innovation by improving the management of its renewable biological resources and to open new and diversified markets in food and bio-based products.
Besides huge water and energy losses, 20–50% of the nutrients and 30% of all food produced in Europe is wasted.
The Bioeconomy Strategy and its Action Plan aim to pave the way to a more innovative, resource efficient and competitive society that reconciles food security with the sustainable use of renewable resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring environmental protection.
Intake of fresh water
Resfood aims to reduce the intake of fresh water in horticulture by 30–70% by more efficient use of fertilisers and irrigation. With an estimated water use in horticulture of 15bnm3 , the expected saving could amount to several billion cubic metres of water. The project also aims to reduce the use of nutrients by 30 to 80% by improved dosage and closing the water cycle. For horticulture, it is estimated the savings could amount to several 100Mt of fertiliser a year.
In food processing, the aim has been to reduce the water use by 30–50% by the direct reuse of water. This has been achieved with the help of new small-scale treatment systems and good quality control by fast detection and monitoring. With a water use of around 5,000Mm3 a year in Europe, the savings could represent 1,000 to 2,000Mm3 a year. By treating washing water at low temperature and in close proximity to the machines not only water but also a lot of energy can be saved.
A target was also set to reduce the use of energy in food processing with 20–40 % by direct reuse of cold and warm water, while preserving the environment and reducing environmental pollution.
Overall, 25–70% less emissions to the environment from the food chain (fertilisers, waste water, greenhouse gasses and solid waste) is expected.