FOX (Food in a bOX) is aimed at creating added-value in regional production areas through small-scale food processing units, stimulating the transition from centralised food processing industry to regional systems.
Essential features of FOX technologies are: mild processing technologies, flexibility with respect to input material and mobility of the equipment. These characteristics are expected to contribute to economic feasibility in comparison to specialized, capital-intensive centralized industries. Intended effects: improved connection between producer and consumer, transparent production from trusted regions of origins, more natural (less processed) foods as part of more healthy diets. The concept contributes to regional circularities, keeping rest- and by-products available in the region. FOX processes will be researched (aim TRL 5-6) and demonstrated in four European model regions (Food Circles) and seven associated partner regions (only demonstration) with significant fruit and vegetable production. To promote the FOX approach, a Europe-wide Interest Group of Small Scale food Processors will be set up that will also foster the dialogue to deliver policy recommendations.
FOX focusses on four Food Circles, of which one is located in the Netherlands. This food circle addresses upcycling of plant-based food side streams of different quality and composition. At the moment of production, these side streams are food grade, however, due to handling, storage and growth of micro-organisms, they can quickly turn into non-food grade streams. Through (mild) processing, the degradation to non-food grade status should be prevented. In this food circle the focus is on side streams from vegetable crops like carrot, beetroot, chard, cabbage, tomato, cucumber. Upcycling of these side streams into high quality food products and ingredients will improve the sustainability of the entire fruit and vegetable chain.
Mild processing methods (like high pressure, pulsed electric field, supercritical CO2, mild heating technologies) will be used for preservation and extraction. The technological innovation will be aimed at the modular integration of the specific processing steps for different materials.
Research activities will focus on specific challenges related to side streams/by-products: production driven supply (often with fluctuations in volumes, demanding for stabilisation treatment), higher variability in the side streams characteristics than in homogeneous inputs to large-scale processes, relatively high microbial loads (in particular mould and yeasts in acidic and pH neutral products).
This field lab for vegetable side streams will be evaluated at the location of Food Tech Brainport and VanRijsingenGreen and especially for product quality at the location of De Verspillingsfabriek (Hutten Catering, company focusing on food waste, Veghel, The Netherlands). Through a living lab - a special shelf in a supermarket (part of the initiative Verspilling is verrukkelijk Wageningen, The Netherlands) - consumer engagement and opinion will be evaluated.
In addition to the activities in the Dutch Food Circle, WFBR will be active in activities related to sustainability, regional demonstration, involvement & exploitation and dissemination and communication. Moreover, WFBR will be heading the Scientific Coordination Team.