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Safeguarding crop storage research in the UK

The recent contraction of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) coupled with the closure of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research has paved the way for the establishment of a new network of post-harvest research facilities across the UK. This development marks a significant step forward in advancing the agricultural sector’s capabilities in preserving and managing harvested produce.

Prof. Sheryl Hendriks, Director of NRI, said: “In order to protect food supply chains and minimise food waste it is vital that resources for research to improve crop handling and storage are fit for purpose. This cannot be covered by an individual organisation but requires a strong national network.”

The Crop Storage and Post-harvest Solutions (CSPS) facility network spans across three strategic locations within the UK. This newly established network is the result of a collaborative partnership between ADAS, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich, and the James Hutton Institute (JHI).

Together, they have joined forces to establish and operate the CSPS facilities, aiming to advance research and innovation in crop storage and post-harvest approaches.

The facilities offer a diverse range of advanced capabilities such as the ability to simulate multiple supply chain environments while exercising precise control and monitoring over essential storage conditions – temperature, humidity, and atmospheric composition such as variable CO2 levels.

Initial research priorities will focus on developing pre- and post-harvest monitoring and modelling techniques to predict storage potential, as well as supply chain tracking and monitoring, optimising store management for energy efficiency, exploring automation and labour-saving opportunities, testing potato sprout suppressant technologies, and evaluating sustainable packaging materials.

Prof. Derek Stewart, Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre (APGC), at The James Hutton Institute, added: “Crop storage research is always the Cinderella of the food supply chain research portfolio, despite the fact that it underpins the whole thing: we don’t eat all that we harvest immediately and so need to store many crops.

The CSPS facility network aims to enhance food supply chain resilience by addressing key challenges including food waste reduction, extended shelf-life, and optimisation of the food value chain from primary production to retail.

Stakeholders will have the opportunity to engage in vital research focused on developing sensors, tags, and bio-indicators to enable better management of produce quality. An additional interest will be on investigating innovative methods to control microbial decay and spoilage after harvest will be tested and lastly, understanding and controlling the biological factors influencing food storage and shelf-life.


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