Argentine project aims to lengthen strawberry shelf life

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Argentine project aims to lengthen strawberry shelf life

A group of Argentine scientists are working to extend the shelf life of strawberries by using a natural coating of chitosan, which is derived from prawn processing. National Industrial Technology Institute (INTI) Mar del Plata chemical engineer Fernando Bollini spoke with about how this project could benefit the fruit industry. strawberry_21483199 1

Bollini emphasized the fact chitosan is a natural biocompatible preservative without toxicity that has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

"We knew the microbial properties of chitosan, so it was proposed to the authorities of INTI to work on the issue. The idea was not just to work on chitosan but to produce it ourselves, knowing that it comes from prawn processing," he said.

"In the first instance we wash the fruit by immersion in chitosan. Strawberries are important in Mar del Plata, which is why we started working on this product.

"To manage to protect strawberries in this chitosan bath, we could keep the fruit fresher as this arms the structure that covers the fruit, delaying the oxidation process and its deterioration."

The expert said the process helped the fruit keep higher Vitamin C and water content compared to untreated fruit.

"Something very significant that supports chitosan is that it reduces the fungal charge, attacking the fungus that affects the strawberry in a way so that compared to the ‘natural’ sample, the strawberry with chitosan is much fresher.

"This would increase the consumption possibilities as the fungus wouldn’t have affected its appearance."

Bollini said that during the postharvest period the fruit was maintained in cold chambers for a maximum period of five days, keeping the strawberries commercially viable for another three or four days.

He said that around 40% of the fruit was wasted after this period due to poor appearance or decomposition.

"Now we are doing some preliminary trials to see if this method can be applied to other fruits and we are about to sign an agreement with INTA in the city of Balcarce.

"The idea is to work with the plantation and harvesting of strawberries, and on the other hand work with other products produced in the area.

"We understand that to engage in a plantation, being responsible for an immediate postharvest combination before commercialization, we could reduce strawberry losses, which are around 40%."


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