16AGRITECHCAT5: Extending the availability and flavour life of UK apples using innovative photonics

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment

Abstract

The British apple industry is continuously asked by UK retailers to extend availability; this being achieved by implementing ever more sophisticated storage technologies. Whilst this demand is driven by a brand loyalty, the industry is increasingly challenged by imports especially towards the end of the current storage season. In order that primary production of UK apples can be fully utilised and be made more competitive, a paradigm shift is needed to improve how apples are stored such that the focus is moved towards 'flavour-life' rather than solely being driven by firmness and Brix specifications. The proposed work will build upon recent research to develop novel (bio)sensors and photonics to better inform physiologically-targeted controlled atmosphere interventions which will control ripening whilst maintaining 'flavour-life'. This offers a route to storage extension to help reduce the reliance on imports and waste.

Technical Summary

he British apple industry is continuously asked by UK retailers to extend availability; this being achieved by implementing ever more sophisticated storage technologies. Whilst this demand is driven by a brand loyalty, the industry is increasingly challenged by imports especially towards the end of the current storage season. In order that primary production of UK apples can be fully utilised and be made more competitive, a paradigm shift is needed to improve how apples are stored such that the focus is moved towards flavour and taste rather than solely being driven by firmness and Brix specifications. The proposed work will build upon recent research to develop novel (bio)sensors and photonics to better inform physiologically-targeted controlled atmosphere interventions which will control ripening whilst maintaining 'flavour-life' and taste. This offers a route to storage extension to help reduce the reliance on imports and waste.

Planned Impact

he project seeks to advance sustainable intensification of apple growing in the UK by maintaining flavour quality during storage. Every year a total of 605,000 tonnes of top fruit are sold in the UK every year. The UK apple industry is worth £190m at retail and supports many jobs in the industry directly, on farms and in transport. To achieve year round apple supply 145,000 tonnes of apples (24% of total volume) are typically stored for ca. 6 months each season depending on variety. The supply of UK grown top fruit is therefore restricted to a 26 week marketing window from September to end of March due to late stored fruit not competing in quality terms with new season Southern Hemisphere fruit. Apple cv. Gala represents 50% of the industry but is threatened by foreign imports in late season, when the flavour can deteriorate, despite firmness and Brix readings remaining above retailer requirements. This represents a current and tangible risk to the sustainability of supply of some important UK-grown varieties (e.g. cvs. Gala and Braeburn).With the UK Gala tonnage ca. 60,000 tonnes, there is a need to expand the marketing window, whilst continuing to offer the consumer a premium product. In addition to supply, lower grade UK fruit in April/May would turn the consumer away from re-purchase for an 8 week window thus affecting total sales. Furthermore, a recent increase of 20% volume in the UK has culminated in a -4% decline in values given the limited marketing window and high participation in promotions to move the fruit through the supply chain. The supply of UK grown fruit is predicted to increase by a further 14% in the next 3 years (20,000 tonnes). The challenge is therefore to extend the season into April /May without compromising the consumer experience in term of quality of purchase. A better understanding of how the flavour of British apple fruit can be better maintained would provide an opportunity to implement appropriate technologies and extend the Britishseason, reduce the reliance on imports where there could be competition (e.g. cv. Gala and Braeburn). The project sets out to implement physiologically targeted modified atmosphere technologies together with the unique allied models of temporal changes in flavour. The Consortium
envisage that, notwithstanding the potential financial and environmental benefit of displacing imports, that the desired extension of 6 weeks sought within this research would equate to an additional £10m at retail for UK cv. Gala fruit alone. This sum would increase when extended to other important UK-grown apple cultivars (e.g. Braeburn, Rubens, Kanzi and Evelina). Extending 'flavour-life' and decreasing the incidence of internal disorders of UK-derived apple fruit would increase availability, safeguard associated jobs, support the UK Government's self-sufficiency agenda, reduce waste and help protect the UK's thousand-year heritage in growing apples.It is expected that the project will act as a catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way UK apples are stored whereby postharvest storage technologies are physiologically targeted and focussed on maintaining 'flavour-life' as opposed to using blanket treatments throughout storage for life extension alone.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project is still on going; however, research has demonstrated that current technology [ethylene binding inhibition] used to extend storage life of UK apples can be replaced by using improved dynamically controlled atmosphere as developed in this research. The project is covered by a NDA so work will be patented and published on completion.
Exploitation Route The project is covered by a NDA so work will be patented and published on completion.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description The findings from the research thus far has enabled the industry partners to replace their current technology with that developed in this project [improved DCA storage]. the technology is covered by a NDA.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description BBC News - Look East [Jan 2019] 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BBC Article on Look East - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bw4bqs/look-east-west-evening-news-08012019 [11 mins]
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bw4bqs/look-east-west-evening-news-08012019
 
Description Oxford Farming Conference 2018 - BBSRC Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Oxford Farming Conference 2018 - BBSRC Exhibition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018