Universidad Andrés Bello
Research Project Title
Controlled release system of encapsulated gas or volatile agents with uses in agriculture
Research Project Description
Technical summary: The technology comprises a system that allows a controlled release of gas or volatile agents with applications in agriculture, fruit growing, and forestry industries. It is based on gas/volatile agents nano-microencapsulated inside a polymeric matrix. The gas/volatile agents allow: (a) to modulate the process of ripening and senescence of fruits and vegetables in postharvest storage and transport; and (b) to reduce the growing of phytopathogenic fungi in post-harvest processes (e.g. Botrytis spp.), as well as other phytopathogens which affect forestry industry. The technology allows a controlled management of agrochemical agents, allowing to modulate ripening and senescence of fruits and crops, and reducing the decomposition caused by post-harvest infections.
Potential impact of the use of the technology: The use of this technology allows delaying at least a 20% of the ripening of fruits and vegetables, using an inhibitor of ethylene, the main plant hormone involved in the process of fruit and vegetable ripening. On the other hand, this technology allows the inhibition of phytopathogenic growing, like Botrytis, with the same effectivity than pure commercial fungicides, but with a durable effect due to the controlled release of the active compounds. The chemical properties of the gas/volatile compounds are compatible with polymeric encapsulation protocols, which allows a stable mix of gas-polymers. The nanomicroencapsulation methods are safe, low-cost and ecofriendly.
Market: The size of the global market for postharvest treatments (e.g. the use of SO2, waxes, coatings, among others) in fruits and vegetables is estimated in US$ 1,17 billion in 2017, and it is expected to reach around US$ 1,67 billion in 2022 (CAGR of 7,3%). The global market for the post-harvest treatments of fruits and vegetables is dominated by big companies such as Decco (U.S.A.), Pace International (U.S.A.), Xeda International (France), John Bean Technologies (JBT) (U.S.A), and Agrofresh (U.S.A). Syngenta (Switzerland), Bayer (Germany), DuPont (U.S.A.), Nufarm (Germany), and FMC (U.S.A.) are other key players with a relevant participation in the market.
On the other hand, Botrytis cinerea is a significant necrotrophic plant pathogen which is responsible for causing serious rotting diseases in more than 500 plant species, affecting commercial fruits and vegetables, which implies huge economic losses, around US$ 10 to 100 billion globally. Until now, the most effective way to control it is the use of synthetic fungicides, representing around 8% of the global market of fungicides (Fillinger and Elad, 2016), therefore the annual global expense to control Botrytis generally overpasses US$ 1 billion (Dean et al., 2012). In Chile, losses caused by Botrytis affect 20% of fruit production, which was equivalent to US$ 300 million in losses only in 2015. We calculate the Chilean national market for a solution in exportoriented table grapes is around US$ 18 million (2014-2015, only for table grapes for export). Key players in the Chilean market are Infruta (Proteku), Osku (Osku-Vid), Quimetal (Fresca Preserva), and Quimas (SmartPack).