Pioneering crop storage facility opened by JHI

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A new facility focused on the future of crop storage has opened at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie.

The Crop Storage and Post-harvest Solutions (CSPS) facility, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments, formally opened its doors in May. The team based at the facility will explore the impact of elements such as temperature, gas composition and humidity on the quality, nutritional value and appearance of stored crops.

Currently, 5-20% of initial crop productions are lost due to insufficient or poor storage, especially in developing countries. The facility leverages world leading plant and data sciences along with advanced technological and digital innovations to explore methods for prolonging the shelf life of produce by inducing a ‘near-sleep state’ post-harvest to preserve its inherent qualities and manage disease.

Professor Derek Stewart, Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre which operates the CSPS, highlighted the urgency of the facility’s research objectives:

“Time is not on our side.  We have a growing global population that needs fed, and multi-billion pounds food and drink sectors which are based entirely around having access to a sufficient supply of good quality crops. Climate change, which is affecting growing seasons, is impacting crop yields and quality, and leading to food shortages is showing no signs of abating. Furthermore, any changes to agricultural practices have a direct impact on a crop’s performance post-harvest, and so the widespread intertest in regenerative agriculture will come with a need for allied post-harvest storage research.

“Crop storage has to be a critical part of ensuring a sustainable supply of crops, and we need to get better at it and reduce waste. With the variety of scientific tools, we have at our disposable at the Hutton, we are able to address very specific concerns in highly controlled conditions. Our findings are more reliable, faster and relevant compared to more traditional store-and-pray approach.

“We are extremely grateful to Scottish and UK Governments for funding this new facility which has the potential to make a difference on a worldwide scale”.

Earlier this month, Jim Fairlie, Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity visited the facility to learn more. He said: “I was delighted to see the new facility at JHI. The information that will be gained from the storage unit will help us learn more about the impact of particular farming practices and the potential for extending the shelf life of harvests.

“Our food and drink producers are absolutely vital, and studying the effect of factors like humidity or temperature on our crops will help ensure that farms and businesses are supported and food security protected.”

The crop storage facility is delivered in partnership with the UK Agri-Tech Centre and is part of a network of crop storage facilities involving ADAS and the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich.

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