Dr. Elena Poverenov sets for herself as a general challenge and research objective the development of safe, effective and sustainable approaches to enhance quality and safety of agricultural products after harvest and avoid food losses during their delivery, storage and processing.
"We also continuously learn from farmers, from people in-volved in food production chain and specialists in agricultural and food science because scientific background together with understanding the real problems in these fields will lead to finding an effective solution."
About 30% of global postharvest losses (and up to 70% in developing countries) are due to physical and mechanical damage, physiological deterioration processes, temperature and humidity changes, damaging microorganisms and harmful insects.
Elena is convinced that reducing losses is the most appropriate option
to overcome world food crisis. As such, her work at the Agricultural
Research Organization (ARO) Volcani Center in Israel, explores natural
approaches for prevention of food losses and develops smart “contact-active” materials to avoid microbial contamination of food, using advanced approaches from material sciences and nanotechnology.
She has developed active edible coatings and biodegradable packages based on natural biopolymers that protect agricultural produce from physiological and microbial damage, thereby prolonging shelf life, and improving quality and appearance. She has also worked on packaging materials used in food industry that are able to prevent microbial damage and mold without releasing antimicrobial agents.
Reducing postharvest losses has been accomplished mainly through the use of chemical antibacterial agents, fungicides, pesticides and various synthetic preservatives. Elena believes that finding alternatives that are safe for human health and environment and commercially viable is a real imperative required for providing safe and secure food.