Meet Bert Verlinden, research manager at the Flanders Centre of Postharvest Technology (VCBT)

What is your expertise?

“I’m a trained food technologist. During my PhD research, I investigated how cooking processes change the texture of vegetables and how these physico-chemical processes can be rendered as mathematical models. At VCBT, I apply that modelling work to how we preserve fresh fruit and vegetables. My aim is to increase our knowledge of how quality changes and to establish under what storage conditions we can maintain this quality for as long as possible.”


Why do you participate in the QCAP project?

“The fact is that we should change our preservation techniques each new season, as the fruit has different properties each time. The QCAP project is developing technology to facilitate this: we try to ‘listen’ to the fruit in storage by measuring certain volatile substances released by the fruit while in storage, and we use this data to find out whether the fruit ‘feels good’. This enables us to intervene before things go really wrong.”


What is your most important challenge in this project?

“One very interesting challenge is how the instrument builders and physicists on the one hand and the conservation physiologists on the other are collaborating. The physiologists work with living plants and speak a totally different language. But the major challenges are of a technical nature. Ensuring that fragile measuring instruments work reliably in a cold and wet storage environment, let alone how to understand the language that the fruit ‘speaks’, is still extremely tricky.”


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