Bio Packaging

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


The food supply chain is responsible for 26% of anthropogenic GHG emissions (Poore and Nemecek, 2018), while global food losses average 50% (Gustavsson et al., 2013). Food that could otherwise be sold and consumed is lost. This provides an opportunity to improve food and poverty and to reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts, for which forecasts are especially concerning in sub-Saharan Africa. Reports from sources such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are used to identify the research gap. For this region of the world the lack of adequate packaging to transport agricultural products away from farms has been identified as a suitable intervention point. From this the core project aim is developed: developing sustainable packaging solutions based on plant-based inputs 'biopackaging' to reduce mechanical damage to food items due to transportation from farms in sub-Saharan Africa.
Key Objective:
Understand food waste due to mechanical damage in Sub-Saharan Africa
Develop feasible ways for local packaging manufacturing

In order to understand this problem better, a database containing mechanical properties of agricultural products is created. This allows to comparison of different food items based on the mechanical properties. Mechanical models are further used to computed three types of stresses acting on the items, due to externally applied loads. Insights from this will inform the design of the biopackaging. Results from a graph made using the database show that tomatoes, mangos and strawberries are especially susceptible to damage from loads from items above when stacked. Testing mechanical properties of mangoes has been done before. However, the novelty of the research is that transferrable mechanical properties are obtained. These properties can be used to design packaging to engineering specifications. Specifically, solutions should be designed to reduce static and dynamic contact loads between food items to levels below the specifications. This point is strongly dependent on the ripeness of the produce. Therefore, fruit items are being tested at different ripeness stages. The project will lay the foundations to the design design, manufacture and testing of biopackaging first in under laboratory conditions and later in the field.
Novel Findings:
Mapping out food items visually based on their mechanical properties
Finding of which items are most susceptible and connecting this to food waste statistics
Ripeness-based mechanical properties and their influence on transport


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513180/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2105170 Studentship EP/R513180/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2021 Robert Kunzmann