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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Food Quality Laboratory » Research » Research Project #433179

Research Project: An Engineering Approach to Improving Food Quality While Reducing Labor Costs

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-43440-006-003-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2017
End Date: Aug 31, 2021

1. To develop innovative methods to improve food quality and shelf life for consumers with reduced labor costs; 2. To develop new sensors, automated processes, and intelligence devices to inspect, detect, and process food materials using the latest engineering methods and technologies, including bio-imaging, machine learning, automated recognition, machine vision-guided waterjet knife cutting, and LED photonics for new architectural growth of microgreens and colorful salad vegetables.

USDA-ARS and UMD scientists have recently developed synergistic approaches in food science and bioengineering for producing heathy foods. Both Labs (USDA ARS - Produce Quality and Safety Lab, and UMD BIOE - Bioimaging and Machine Vision (BMV) Lab) have identified opportunities to harness the strengthens of both labs. The approaches are: 1) Machine vision-guided waterjet technology is currently being developed at UMD. This new technique can be used to cut leafy vegetables, melon, and other fresh produce. This vision-guided waterjet processing is advantagous in terms of improving product quality, reducing waste, and increasing throughput. The two labs will synergistically explore the potential applications of this technology and create new innovative processing methods. 2) USDA-ARS has recently developed a new microgreen and salad vegetable growing methods using LED spectral lights to produce extraordinarily colorful leaf vegetables that have enhanced nutritional value and great market potential for consumers. The BMV lab at UMD has the engineering expertise in exploring wavelengths and improving the engineering design and hardware for optimal growth. Both teams will study the potential of using various wavelengths to grow several types of vegetables, including the related energy consumption, yield, and nutrition. Furthermore, methods to scale up these new LED vegetable products will also be studied and tested. Improving food quality and nutrition, engineering, water jet, LED light, waste reduction, microgreens.