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e-Beam tech can reduce postharvest crop loss

Published : Thursday, 18 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 228

e-Beam tech can reduce postharvest crop loss

e-Beam tech can reduce postharvest crop loss

Postharvest loss can be defined as the degradation in both quantity and quality of a food from harvest to consumption. Quality losses include those that affect the nutrient/caloric composition, the acceptability, and the edibility of a given product. These losses are generally more common in developed countries. Quantity losses refer to those that result in the loss of the amount of a product.

The estimated postharvest loss of fruits and vegetables in Bangladesh is 23.6-43.5% worth around BDT3442 crore every year (Hassan et al 2010). The loss would be much more if the losses of all available fruits, vegetables, spices, pulses, oilseeds and cereals were considered. This finding is supported by an estimate of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS, 2019) which showed annual losses of onion, potato, paddy, pulse and mango is 20-25 per cent, 5-8 per cent, 8-9 per cent, 5-6 per cent, and 30-35 per cent, respectively, due to   lack of appropriate technologies and knowledge on post-harvest handling, packaging, storage and transportation against annual production of 3.36, 10.61, 38.61, 0.09, 2.1 million tons, respectively, during 2020-21. These losses are attributed to physiological and biochemical processes i.e. increase in the rates of respiration, ethylene production and transpirational loss of water, (ii) microbial decay, (iii) high perishability, and (iv) sub-standard postharvest handling infrastructures.

Irradiation is a non-thermal and chemical free technology which has been proved to be most effective. It controls the physiological processes of the agricultural produces, eradicates microbes, insect pests, restrains sprouting of potato, garlic,  and onion and kills pests in grain and thus enhances shelf life by 3-5 times. Moreover, irradiation provides important health benefits and helps to keep our food safer. There is no evidence of any health risks associated with food irradiation. The technology has been used for over 40 years. Hundreds of studies have been done on food irradiation. It has been endorsed by a broad range of scientific groups and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Medical Association, and the Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the American Dietetic Association, the Institute of Food Technologists, the World Health Organization and the International Food Standards setting Organization Codex Alimentarius. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved its use on a wide variety of food products. Food irradiation is permitted in over 60 countries, and about 500,000 metric tons of foods are processed annually worldwide. But inBangladesh, there is no use of this proven technology in agricultural products and food except small-scale services to export-oriented pharmaceutical and spice manufacturing and marketing companies by the Atomic Energy Research Institute (AERE), Savar, under the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC).

Worldwide, food irradiation uses either gamma irradiation (from radioactive isotopes such as cesium-137 or cobalt-60), X-rays [from X-ray tubes or linear accelerators (LINAC)], and electron beam irradiation (from linear accelerators or other accelerating structures) (Fig.1)

The device that generates eBeam radiation is termed the "accelerator." In the accelerator, electrons from commercial electricity are accelerated to very high velocities (~ 99.999% of the speed of light), thereby gaining incredible energies of up to 10 million electron volts (MeV). These electrons are then allowed to penetrate the case-ready packages. Figure 1 is a schematic representation of an e-Beam technology platform in use on a food production line. Broadly speaking, accelerators are customized according to the energy of the output electrons (in MeV) and the accelerator power (in kW) that will dictate the possible processing throughputs. There are different types of accelerators in terms of their engineering designs and their operating principles. Regardless of energy and power, all accelerators perform the basic function of generating a planar stream of high-energy electrons.

For the food industry, eBeam technology applications can be broadly categorized into high-energy (5-10 MeV) applications, medium-energy (1-5 MeV), and low-energy (0.1-1 MeV) applications. Each of these applications meets high-value niches in the food industry. The technology is commercially available and can be purchased off the shelf. Table 1 lists the different food industry applications for the low-, medium-, and high-energy accelerators.

Considering the benefits and advantages of e-Beam technology, Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) is going to establish a 10 MeV e-Beam facility at BINA as public private partnership (PPP)with technical assistance from National Center for Electron Beam Research (NCEBR), Texas A & M University, USA with the following objectives:

Post-harvest loss reduction of perishable vegetables, fruits and spices;  Strengthening food and nutritional security of Bangladesh; Ensuring hazard free vegetables, fruits and spices in the market; Strengthening existing phytosanitary system ; and Mutation breeding; Motivate private sector for establishing more e-Beam facilities in Bangladesh; Capacity building of respective scientists and staffs in relevant fields.

To gainmore insight about the technology, its users, advantages and disadvantages, operational infrastructural, logistic, manpower and other requirements, Director General, Director (Administration & Support Service) and Head Electronics Section, BINA attended the Workshop on "Accelerating the Adoption of e- Beam/X-ray Technologies in the Asia and Pacific Region" held in Daejeon, South Korea during 14-18 November, 2022. At the end of the Workshop, they also attended a special meeting with the concerned authority of NCEBR. With the decision from that meeting, the Feasibility Study for establishing an e-Beam/X-ray facility at BINA has been completed.

With a 10 MeV e-Beam facility it is possible to irradiate annually 200,000 to 250,000 tons of vegetables, fruits and spices and can be protected by extending shelf life and or stopping spoilage which may save BDT 198 to 220crore. Upon motivation by piloting the e-Beam facility by BINA, it is expected that the private sector will come forward and dozens of such facilities will be established in Bangladesh.

Minimizing postharvest losses of fruit, vegetables and spices is a very effective way of fighting poverty, ensuring food security and maintaining the quality of produce. It will also ensure more intake of fruit, vegetables and spices and will boost export market as well. By establishing eBeam facility as public private partnership (PPP) at different hotspots, the postharvest losses of agricultural produces and waste of food could be significantly reduced in Bangladesh.

Dr. Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Director (Administration & Support Service), BINA, Dr. SarifulHaqueBhuyia, Director (Training and Planning), BINA, Md. Nazmul Hassan Mehedi, Lecturer, Patuakhali Science and Technology University

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