Our laboratory. Empa’s Laboratory of Biomimetic Membranes and Textilesaims to develop materials and systems for the protection of the human body and its health. The products developed in collaboration with industry are used in the fields of occupational safety, sport, medical applications and health-tech.
Background.Up to 25% of Europe's fresh fruit and vegetables are lost on the way from farm to consumer. Minimizing this postharvest loss is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from supply chains of fresh horticultural produce and avoid waste of natural resources embedded in these products. The key strategy to preserve fresh produce and extend its shelf life is to cool down the food after harvest and to maintain the cold chain during transport and storage, until the point it is consumed. The postharvest life of fresh fruit and vegetables is also extended by using polymer packaging. Despite its protective function, such packaging has an ecological impact and may re-enter the environment partly as microplastics. As such, there is an increasing aversion in consumers towards plastic packaging.
Objective. In this project, we aim to reduce the environmental impacts of the fresh-produce supply chain by means of sustainable, smart packaging solutions. Here we target solutions that simultaneously minimize postharvest food waste and the use of plastic packaging. We use digital food twins to propose an individualized, eco-friendly packaging strategy and material. We focus on plant-based foods for Switzerland that are currently sold packaged.
Administration. A project duration of 18 months is envisaged to carry out the above research tasks in the form of a postdoctoral project. An extension can be discussed in the course of the project. Empa supports the project under the supervision of Thijs Defraeye. The candidate will perform his research at Empa in St. Gallen. The desired starting date is 1st of March 2021 or upon mutual agreement.