Science and Technology

Técnico participates in PRR-funded project for sustainable food

The VIIAFOOD project aims to transform the Portuguese food sector with a special focus on healthy eating and sustainability.

Several researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico are involved in the ‘VIIAFOOD Agenda – Platform for Valorisation, Industrialisation and Agri-food Innovation’. Funded by the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), this project aims to boost the Portuguese food sector, particularly concerning competitiveness and sustainability. The consortium is made up of around 50 organisations, and aims to produce more than 130 new products, services and processes by December 2025.

The Técnico professors involved in VIIAFOOD are Ana Clara Marques and Rui Galhano dos Santos, from the Centro de Recursos Naturais e Ambiente (CERENA), Paulo Peças, from the Mechanical Engineering Institute (idMEC), and Luís Caldas de Oliveira, from the Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores: Investigação e Desenvolvimento (INESC-ID), who bring together expertise in the areas of polymers and sustainability, lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, data analysis and machine learning.

VIIAFOOD proposes the formulation of new food products and the adoption of advanced technologies for their processing and production, as well as new food product quality tests. It also seeks to increase the sustainability and overall energy efficiency of the manufacturing process for these products, reduce the amount of food waste and increase the capacity, flexibility and production efficiency of the agri-food industry.

Within the scope of VIIAFOOD, Técnico researchers are involved in the sub-project ‘Newpack: A New Generation of Packaging Materials’, intending to use raw materials from renewable sources (alternatives to PET). In case of accidental disposal in a marine environment, the new package will not be dangerous for the fish, on the contrary, it is to be hydrolyzed and metabolized, with a positive nutrient effect. Newpack is also looking for new packaging solutions formulated with natural ingredients to enhance the product’s shelf life. Using sensors in packaging is also under study, which can provide information on the product’s storage conditions and enable tracking of food products across all supply chains.

The Técnico professors are also studying machine learning algorithms in production lines to support the intelligent decision-making process. In addition, they intend to develop and integrate a flexible and non-intrusive diagnostic system into these production lines to support the resolution of problems that may arise.

The VIIAFOOD project is funded by the European Union under the NextGeneration EU programme through the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the RRP.