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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research » Research » Research Project #442739

Research Project: Postharvest Treatments and Functional Nutrients Studies of Hawaii Tropical Commodities

Location: Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research

Project Number: 2040-43000-018-028-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Oct 31, 2026

The overall goal of the project is to develop research and technology that benefit Hawaii’s tropical crops through postharvest treatments that extend shelf-life, improve nutritional quality and bioavailability, and reduce microbial risks of fresh and processed products. Specific objectives are to: 1) Identify and quantify the major nutrients and phytochemicals in tropical commodities; 2) Determine the functional activity of bioactive compounds of tropical foods; 3) Develop advanced and sustainable processing and packaging food technologies; and 4) Understand the effects of tropical commodities and food products on gut microbiota and health.

The approach includes determining the effects of pre- and post-harvest conditions on bioactive compounds and profiles from plant and algal-based tropical products. The potential health benefits and ingredient functionality of identified bioactive components will be assessed. For functional studies of bioactive compounds, the effects of papaya leaves and seaweeds on blood glucose control will be determined in induced diabetic mice. Also, the mechanisms of enhanced muscle and bioactive compounds on insulin signal pathways and glucose homeostasis will be characterized. The composition and prebiotic activities of taro and sweet potato products will be assessed, along with their activities on the human gut microbiota. Various novel technologies and combinations will be tested for processed foods, with an emphasis on inactivating both pre- and post-harvest microbial contaminants and reducing the intensity of thermal and non-thermal processing to improve food quality. A rapid, multiplexed, simple, and portable biosensor with high specificity and sensitivity will be developed for the detection of pathogens in tropical foods. Subzero chilling protocols will be evaluated for the extending fish freshness in the cold supply chain. New technologies will be transferred to scientists and stakeholders for the improvement of tropical crop quality, nutrition, processing, and applications to human health. Collaborations between CTAHR and DKI-PBARC scientists in food science and nutrition also include sharing laboratory resources (i.e., instruments, specimens and protocols) and technical expertise.