The GreenUPorto focuses its research on the Horticulture sector (with a special emphasis on fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and viticulture) both in open-air as well as under protected cultivation. Three main thematic lines have been defined, which reflect the existent expertise.
Plant Biology, Production and Postharvest. This line aims at contributing to the global societal challenge of providing safe food to the increasing world population, while protecting the natural resources and facing climate change scenarios. Line 1 contributes to the development of innovative strategies/technologies with high market value that can encourage the production of more food, food of higher quality (physico-chemical/ nutritional and longer shelf life) and with less impact on the environment. In this context, GreenUPorto integrated researchers have R&D+i competences in: (i) understanding fundamental aspects of plant growth, physiology, biochemistry, genomics and plant responses to environmental signals, using plant model systems (ii) integrating this knowledge in order to create technological crop improvements; (iii) screening and plant breeding (for the identification of new species and genotypes of high agronomic interest and high level of resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses); (iv) increasing resource use efficiency (water, nutrients and plant protection products); (v) analysing the relationships between production and postharvest of fruits, vegetables and flowers; (vi) increasing the processing aptitude of fruits and vegetables, and (vii) developing crop monitoring tools for growers’ decision support (e.g. modelling, precision farming).
Processing, Valorisation, Consumption and Human Nutrition. This research line is mainly focused on fundamental research with applications downstream in the horticultural value chain. Here we investigate the extraction, characterization and application of phytochemicals of nutritional/medicinal value; the characterization of new products enriched with these phytochemicals, as well as the valorisation of agricultural wastes following a circular economy perspective. GreenUPorto researchers have R&D+i competences on the application of minimal processing techniques for fresh fruits and vegetables. This line also encompasses developments in the area of sensory evaluation with the implementation and development of a large set of advanced techniques for rapid and dynamic profiling in the evaluation of food products. Quality retention, processing, product enrichment/fortification and transformation at the food service level are also analysed from a Human Nutrition point of view. The use of minimally processed products on food services is to be evaluated in terms of consumer acceptance as well as concerning its impact on minimizing food waste and improving food profitability at all stages of the transformation process, therefore contributing to food units’ sustainability. The development of methodologies for evaluating consumer perception and acceptance of fresh and or minimally processed fruits and vegetables is also addressed, both from the perspective of public health (promoting healthy eating) and of New Product Development or Valorisation of autochthonous varieties.
Environmental Quality and Risk Assessment. This line emerges from the need to combine food production and processing with the protection of agro-environmental systems in their edapho-climatic context, their biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided. The foremost aim is to ensure the sustainability of agrifood production processes. In this context GreenUPorto has skills in: (i) improving and applying risk assessment frameworks to agro-systems, to estimate the risk of plant protection products (retrospective risk assessment) for the environment and human health; (ii) evaluating the risks of new chemical compounds under the REACH Regulation, through standardized (ISO/OECD) ecotoxicological tests and the development of cellular and molecular biomarkers sensitive to different mechanisms of action (predictive risk assessment); (iii) testing nanoformulations and nanopesticides less harmful to non-target species; (iv) testing and validating the sustainability of new production systems and, (v) evaluating soil and water quality through chemical, physical, biological and ecotoxicological indicators and integrative quality indexes.