Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Healthy Processed Foods Research » Research » Research Project #438072

Research Project: New Sustainable Processing Technologies to Produce Healthy, Value-Added Foods from Specialty Crops

Location: Healthy Processed Foods Research

Project Number: 2030-41000-066-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 17, 2020
End Date: Dec 6, 2020

The goal of this research is to continue the investigation, development and commercialization of several new infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) based processing technologies including infrared drying, dry blanching, sequential infrared (IR) dryblanching/dehydration and hot air-drying (SIRDBHAD), and combined IR and UV disinfection, and IR dry-peeling of specialty crops. Further goals of this research are to use new process technologies including microwave, solar thermal, vacuum forming, casting, extrusion, pasteurization, and homogenization, alone or in combination, to add value to specialty crops. Specific objectives are listed below: Objective 1: Enable new, efficient and sustainable commercial infrared and ultraviolet based methods for processing specialty crops to improve food quality, value and safety. Sub-objective 1.1 Investigate and commercially demonstrate an energy efficient drying technology for producing high quality nuts. Sub-objective 1.2 Investigate, demonstrate, and commercialize a novel IR technology for producing healthy crispy snacks. Sub-objective 1.3 Develop IR heating and ultraviolet (UV) technology for improved drying efficiency and safety of nuts. Sub-objective 1.4 Develop sustainable IR peeling technologies for fruits and vegetables. Objective 2: Enable economical, input-efficient and sustainable commercial microwave and solar thermal methods for processing specialty crops while improving product quality and value. Sub-objective 2.1. Develop microwave systems for drying and extracting high-value compounds from specialty crops and their co-products. Sub-objective 2.2 Develop a medium-scale solar thermal cabinet dryer with the capability to operate 24 hours a day during specialty crop harvest periods. Sub-objective 2.3 Develop solar thermal alternatives for heat-intensive specialty crop processing unit operations beyond cabinet drying. Objective 3: Enable novel, value-added commercial forming, casting and extrusion methods for processing fruits, vegetables and legumes with improved food safety and nutrition. Sub-objective 3.1 Develop vacuum forming technologies that can be implemented to increase utilization and consumption of specialty crops and their co-products in a variety of nutritious and value-added forms. Sub-objective 3.2 Apply the tools of nanoscience to the casting of edible films to improve safety, extend shelf-life and improve quality. Sub-objective 3.3 Develop healthy and sensory enhanced, ready-to-eat extruded healthy foods from legumes, specialty crops, cereals, fruits and vegetables and their fractions. Objective 4: Enable new, commercial methods of pasteurizing legumes and specialty crop-based beverages and yogurts, for improved flavor, bioactives and shelf life.

The research and development of new processing technologies can add value to specialty crops through the development of new foods containing up to 100% specialty crop based ingredients with enhanced healthfulness, convenience, and overall consumer appeal. Increased consumption of nutritious fruit, vegetable, nut, and legume based foods will improve the American diet and reduce the prevalence of obesity in our nation. This research will also improve profitability for U.S. growers and processors by increasing demand for specialty crops and by developing new value added products with high potential for export. Development of sustainable processing technologies which result in energy and water savings is another benefit of this research. Food safety will also be improved. Infrared, ultraviolet, microwave, solar thermal, forming, casting, extrusion, pasteurization and high pressure homogenization processing technologies will be explored, alone and in combination, to form novel value added food systems. Ultimately, effects of processing on final product properties will be characterized and processing methodologies optimized to maximize final product quality, safety, nutritional value, and sensory properties. An extensive network of collaborators from universities, research institutes in other countries, commodity organizations, medical research labs and the food industry, as well as sizable grants from Federal and State agencies and industry groups, will be used to support and insure a high degree of impact resulting from the research proposed in this project plan. Scientific impact will ultimately be achieved through scientific publications, patents, new mathematical models and transference of these technologies into commercialization.