Expertise & research centre in Green Health

The Netherlands has a considerable need for innovative food-related solutions in order to put a stop to the continuously rising cost of health care (€95 billion in the Netherlands in 2016). There is broad consensus that eating sufficient fruit and vegetables contributes to the prevention of various affluence-related diseases. Yet most people in the Netherlands still do not eat enough fruit and veg. There is a lack of fruit and vegetable products that are easier to eat and can be eaten at different times of the day. On the other hand, the number of unhealthy products is very high, making it hard for fruit and vegetables to compete. This does however create opportunities for product development in response to the eating behaviours of various consumer groups.

Product compounds

Fruit and vegetables naturally contain many positive compounds and fit well in a healthy diet. However, these compounds are hardly ever measured due to the high costs of doing so. As a result, the effects of variety, cultivation conditions, post-harvest conditions and processing methods on the nutritional value are largely unknown. A quick and cheap method to measure compounds will provide that insight and could lead to added value in the form of substantiated food claims such as ‘source of’ and ‘high in’.

De horticultural sector is an important economic driving force for the Netherlands. However, the sector has a relatively limited profile when it comes to promoting the fact that a healthy diet makes a significant contribution to the health and well-being of individuals. New products and business concepts for fruit and vegetables are needed in order to increase consumption and to add value to their products. 

The objective of this ERC

Knowledge development and knowledge exchange about how to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables in order to contribute to the long-term success of the horticultural sector, employment opportunities for HAS graduates, the health of Dutch consumers and the sustainability of Dutch society.

Lines of research 

The ERC focusses on 3 lines of research:

  1. Using new concepts to increase fruit and vegetables consumption
  2. Developing low-cost methods to measure the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables
  3. Maintaining the quality of fruit and vegetables between harvest and consumption

1.  Increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables 

Developing new concepts based on fresh or processed fruit and vegetables that suit various meals and locations and take in to consideration the different target groups. Testing new concepts where they are bought and eaten increases the chance that these concepts will actually reach the market. 

Projects:

  • Pancks
  • Green Rolls
  • De Gezonde Groene Student (The Healthy Green Student)
  • Groente als Ingrediënt (Vegetables as an Ingredient) 

2. The nutritional value of fruit and vegetables

Developing cheap and reliable methods to systematically measure and monitor the nutritional value of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables. Based on the results, specific advice could be given regarding plant breeding, cultivation, post-harvest conditions and processing.

Projects:

  • Light-induced elicitation of phytochemical production in higher plants
  • Light for nutrients

3. Fruit and vegetable quality

Applying post-harvest knowledge to issues regarding the quality of fruit and vegetables. Currently, considerable quantities of products are still lost between harvest and consumption. An important problem is the huge losses during the transport of soft fruit. Another problem is the short shelf life of leaf vegetables (lettuce, spinach), products with an increasing demand, as a result, for example of the increase in ready-made salads.

Projects:

  • Post-harvest Quality (in development)