Towards optimal nutrient content and taste of fresh vegetables: A value chain analysis

Towards optimal nutrient content and taste of fresh vegetables: A value chain analysis






Landbouw, Water, Voedsel>D. Gewaardeerd, gezond en veilig voedsel>D2. De consument, duurzame en gezonde voeding in een groene leefomgeving






We systematically study the additive and interactive effects of variety, growing protocols and postharvest handling on carotenoids (incl. vit A.) metabolism. We focus on the crops: tomato (fruit), spinach (leaf); and carrot (root). The germplasm screen consists of traditional and modern varieties; the growth protocols vary in blue light content in relation to vapor pressure deficit; and the postharvest conditions are either darkness or light. We conclude with a consumer taste panel.

Doel van het project

We optimize the amount of nutritive value per m2 production, thereby creating added value for all
partners in the value chain. We do this by working on predictable and constant high carotenoid
vegetables. For tomato and spinach, we focus on Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Through
indoor farming the production per m2 is more than 100-fold increased. Furthermore, production is
close to the end consumer. Added value (such as high carotenoids) will further strengthen the business
case for CEA. Through CEA the demand on land area and transport CO2 emission is further reduced.
We have an integrated value chain quality approach. This caters for sustainable business success as all
parties contribute and benefit from the success. Because of close to market production we also expect
a significant reduction in produce waste

Relatie met missie (Motivatie)

The carotenoid family of compounds are an important source of anti-oxidants. Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene
and cryptoxanthin are converted to vitamin A upon consumption. Registered health claims related to skin, eye
and iron metabolism are therefore available. In fact, worldwide, low vitamin A and iron are the most common
deficiencies, especially in children and pregnant women (WHO). These deficiencies are also significant in the
Netherlands (see literature review in annex 1). The high carotenoid products can either be the fresh vegetable
(carrots, spinach, tomato) dishes or other concepts (such as juices) developed with these vegetables. Because
each part of the value chain contributes and together safeguard a constant high-quality product, the benefit of
the added value will be shared amongst the different players in the chain, including consumers. This caters for a
sustainable business model. Because of the value chain approach market demands will be better aligned with
supply leading to a reduction of food waste related to overproduction or spoilage. For bulky vegetables like
carrots or industry tomatoes high carotenoid levels provides a different outlet next to the fresh product. High
pro-vit A carrot juice is a premium product and one can extract carotenoids as a natural replacement for synthetic
vit A (or other carotenoids). These alternative outlets of surplus vegetables reduce waste and further aids in
making our food supply more sustainable. The taste panel in WP5 teaches us what is important for consumers
to buy healthy vegetables. Is simply communicating enough? Or does it need to have an enjoyability factor such
as excellent taste?

Geplande acties

To gain insight of the additive and interactive effects of cultivar (genetics) versus growing
conditions versus postharvest handling on carotenoid levels and taste and to practically advice seed companies,
growers, and CEA companies how to optimize their growth protocols for this class of important compounds.
We want to understand:
 The variability in carotenoid levels in existing carrot, tomato and spinach varieties including traditional
and modern varieties
 Whether supplemental blue light can increase carotenoid levels in Controlled Environment Agriculture
and whether the various growth and postharvest modifications affect taste