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Innovation

Innovation

PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY AND AGRICULTURE IN ST. PETERSBURG

29/11/2018

 

St. Isaac’s Square, St. Petersburg: a baroque construction towers before the statue of Czar Alexander II. This building hosts the institute dedicated to Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov (1887-1943), one of the most remarkable personalities in modern science.
A geneticist, botanist, and agronomist, Vavilov was one of the most brilliant minds in the first half of the 1900s. He conducted numerous studies concerning the origin of cultivated plants and collected an enormous quantity of seeds, all meticulously classified and recorded at the Institute of Applied Botany, currently named after him: the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry.

One can say that Vavilov was one of the fathers of research on agricultural biodiversity, which he was the first to ever approach with an open, holistic, and multidisciplinary philosophy. In over 180 expeditions in the Soviet republics, Europe (including Italy), Middle and Far East, North America and Latin America, Vavilov has not only achieved a great botanical and genetic research operation, but has also given considerable importance to the cultural, environmental, social, and even language context.

Walking through the hallways and rooms of the institute today, you can perceive a strong emotion: the immensity of a still ongoing project, with the structure hosting over 323 thousand seed varieties from all over the world. A heritage that is constantly preserved, renewed, and broadened. In fact, every two or three years – depending on the seed’s life cycle – all the plants are bedded out in order to update the collection with new seeds.
The Vavilov Institute collection is not museum-like or static, but a living tool available to all those wishing to perform studies and research.

http://www.vir.nw.ru

Innovation

FROZEN FOOD IS AS GOOD AS FRESH

14/11/2018

 

Despite it has existed for over a century, a large number of consumers are still somewhat sceptical towards frozen food. It is a common belief that fresh products are of a higher quality, and especially that they have more vitamins and nutrients compared to those exposed to temperatures lower than -18°C (-0.4°F). In reality, a number of scientific reports have proven that there are no significant differences between fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, and even hint that a number of greens are stored better when frozen.

Most fruits and vegetables have a water content between 70 and 90%, thus tend to perish quickly once picked: microorganisms use water, sugars, and other substances to feed on and multiply, thus reducing the food’s duration.
Natural decay – a process that begins almost immediately upon picking – also induces the loss of vitamins and other nutrients. A vegetable or fruit on a supermarket shelf or market stall will never have the same nutrient concentration it had when it was freshly picked.

Frozen fruit and vegetables store a greater quantity of nutrients as they undergo freezing almost immediately upon collection. Modern technology allows to freeze them completely in only few minutes, and make it so that they preserve at least as many nutrients as their fresh equivalents.
A study performed by the University of California and published on the British newspaper The Guardian made a comparison between eight fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables (corn, broccoli, spinach, carrots, peas, string beans, strawberries, and blueberries). Testing revealed no significant differences between fresh and frozen in terms of vitamin count or other nutrients. As for corn, string beans, and blueberries, it was recorded that frozen products contained a higher amount of vitamin C.
The same was recorded for one type of vitamin B (riboflavin) in frozen broccoli.
The research group also assessed the effects of freezing on vegetable fibres, and compared mineral levels (magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron) in fresh and frozen goods. Once again, no significant differences were reported, as a further confirmation of the fact that freezing maintains nutrient content for the most part unaltered.

Freezing techniques
Deep-freezing has been an important step in food preservation systems, but has only been made possible in the first half of the 1900s, thanks to the evolution in technology and consequent creation of freezers capable of reaching very low temperatures. Before deep-freezing technology, throughout the centuries food was stored using natural freezing processes during the cold season: snow and ice were used to improve the durability of the more perishable goods. Nonetheless, the flaw of such natural systems was that they froze the food slowly, leading to the formation of large ice crystals that damaged its cells, thus changing its composition once defrosted.
A new system was required.
The modern deep-freezing technique is attributed to US inventor Clarence Birdseye. Birdseye sensed that foodstuffs needed to be frozen as quickly as possible, both for production quality purposes and for a better preservation. In simple terms, deep-freezing allows to freeze food very quickly, avoiding the formation of ice crystals damaging its tissue. Starting from the late 1920s, Birdseye patented solutions to create more powerful freezers, capable of reaching lower temperatures and making deep-freezing possible. Since then, freezing technology has improved even further, and today it allows the preservation of fresh and pre-cooked food for months, or in some cases years.

Innovation

THE EVOLUTION OF THE RISOTTO, IN THE NAME OF LIGHTNESS

12/09/2018

 

The risotto culture had birth in Italy in the mid-19th century. In Northern Italy, to be specific: Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. After nearly 170 years, the risotto is one of the most representative dishes of our country around the world, hand in hand with pasta and pizza.

 

Italian grandmothers and great-grandmothers, as well as traditional recipe books, passed on the custom to start its preparation by browning onion in butter and olive oil, add rice, sizzle it and simmer it with white wine, and at last gradually add the warm stock.

Christian Costardi, a young chef who manages the restaurant “Cinzia” in Vercelli (one Michelin star on the 2018 guide) with his brother Manuel, has created an evolution of this world-famous specialty by looking at history. The Michelin-starred chef has dug back into the origin of the sauté as the first step of the preparation.
In the past, rice in Italy was transported in large jute bags. Jute is a perfect fabric to carry cereals and other products, but has one flaw: it has a strong odour, which it conveyed to the rice – a very porous cereal that absorbs anything around it. Therefore, commencing the preparation by sautéing the onion and sizzling the rice had this specific purpose: to remove the jute smell.

Today, Italian rice no longer travels in jute, thus beginning the preparation of risotto as tradition tells is only useful if we want our dish to have a distinguished taste of onion and wine. Chef Christian Costardi thus presents a “lite” version of the recipe. First of all, you heat a pan as it is and then – without the use of any form of fat – you add the rice and toast it until it is warm. Afterwards, you start adding the vegetable, meat, or fish stock until the rice is cooked, while you toss in the other ingredients to customize the dish.

Rice in Italy

140,000 types of rice exist worldwide, of which 126 are registered in Italy, earning the country 1st place in European production. All rice varieties branch from 3 subspecies: Indica, Japonica, and Javanica. Japonica is the most farmed subspecies in Italy, and is the one generally used to make risotto dishes.

Innovation, News

THE FOOD PRODUCTION INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION: DELOITTE CHOOSES ALIFOOD

02/01/2018

 

At a time when the food production industry is going from strength to strength in Italy (it accounted for 11.3% of the country’s GDP in 2016, second only to the steel industry), it is now time for operators to consolidate this positive trend by applying the principles of innovation on products and processes. Deloitte, one of the most prestigious corporate consultancy firms in the world, has dedicated a book entitled Il Settore Alimentare: l’Innovazione nei Paradigmi (‘The Food Industry: Innovating Models’) to the exemplary cases driving such innovation.
The innovation that Deloitte proposes is not just technology or product based; it has more ambitious goals, and aims to change the very rules that govern the industry. The focus is now on consumers and the need to keep them informed. It is therefore necessary for industry operators to cooperate in order to achieve a shared aim. Last but not least, there is a need to develop products and make them available on modern distribution channels where a consumer that is increasingly ‘emotional’ when making purchasing decisions can reach them.

Deloitte has included Alifood, a leading food trading company specialising in high quality Italian products, among the 11 case histories described in the book, companies that innovate the Italian food production industry. This Genoa-based company is joined by Amadori, Casillo Group, Eataly, Illycaffè, Inalpi, Matrunita Mediterranea, Mutti, Noberasco, Oropan and Parmareggio. Alifood carries out a number of different roles within the food supply chain: it chooses products and producers, it monitors all logistical phases, it identifies the documents and certificates required by each individual country and manages the after-sales needs of clients, which includes the best way to use their products. The company’s most innovative field of expertise, as described in the book, is undoubtedly product preservation, which avoids the problem of not being able to export fresh specialities. Indeed, Alifood has carried out constant research and development in conjunction with food production companies in order to bring the technology to a level whereby preserved products, once returned to their original state, are totally identical to their fresh versions.
This is the second time Alifood has been mentioned in Deloitte publications that describe the jewels in the Italian food industry’s crown, the first time having been in Why Liguria: Il Bello e il Buono: L’Arte di Essere Imprenditori (‘Why Liguria: The Great and the Good: The Art of Being Entrepreneurs’).

Innovation

HOSPITALITY: A LUCRATIVE RESOURCE FOR MADE IN ITALY FOOD & BEVERAGE

01/12/2017

 

More than any other Made in Italy speciality, food & beverage is the one that most attracts international enogastronomy dealers and tourists to visit the places of production. Many wine cellars and agricultural business are already prepared, while others are organising themselves, for what is considered an important strategic incentive in their relationship with the public.

The marketing of hospitality is a vital point of growth for Italian food & beverage producers, especially from the value point of view. Some real opportunities for “experience” have been created: visits to the agricultural company, products tastings, all organised to reveal the secrets behind production, and introduce the historical and artistic attractions of the territory. In fact, in an open and globalised world, we are increasingly on the lookout for genuine experiences to bring us truly into contact with the culture of the place; also meaning the visitor then shares his experience, becoming an ambassador of the company to the world.

Significant investments have been made throughout almost all the main regions in Italy, particularly in wine-production, in some cases with the commissioning of famous international architects to create innovative structures, buildings that – without betraying their primary function – act as a bridge between nature and civilisation, the beauty of the landscape and the work of man. Places such as Antinori, Frescobaldi, Petra and Rocca di Frassinello in Tuscany, Tramin and Ferrari in Trentino Alto Adige, Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria, Ceretto in Piemonte and Feudi San Gregorio in Campania are listed as obligatory stops in tourist guides from all over the world.

Innovation, Technology

Food photography: techniques and advice

10/05/2017

 

If it’s not an art, it’s not far short either. Photographing food is becoming increasingly important for those who work in the food industry: producers, traders, caterers and food bloggers. What could have more impact than an image when promoting one’s products?

Some turn to professional photographers, others do it themselves, but it’s the finer details that always make the difference. Here is some practical advice for beginners.

 

1-Your subject

A camera lens emphasizes every single imperfection so you need to make sure the dish you want to photograph is absolutely perfect.

 

2-Framing the shot

Your distance from the dish and your position will affect the angle of the shot. A 30° angle is the most natural because it’s the point of view we usually have when we’re seated at the dinner table, while a right-angle shot highlights the thickness of the dish, its container and the setting. It’s best to avoid standing too far: the shot needs to be filled with the image, even focusing on a tiny detail and not the whole dish.

 

3-Light

The best light for photographing food is natural light, either from the back or the side. The flash on a digital camera is public enemy number one: you’re better off deactivating it and raising your camera’s ISO (light sensitivity) to its maximum level.

 

4-The setting

Making sure your setting is perfect – cutlery, napkins and contrasting elements – helps create an appealing effect and increases the effectiveness of the shot.

 

5-Colour

You can use plates and decorations that match the dish you’re photographing, playing with similar hues, or experiment with clashing colours. The right setting will make the dish you photograph look even more appealing.

 

6-The human touch

Include a human detail, such as hands, to give your picture a sense of reality.

 

If you’d like to know more, here are some recommended sources:

 

Food Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Appetizing Images Corinna Gisseman

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots  Nicole S. Young

Food Styling: the art of preparing food for camera  Dolores Custer

Food Photography: Pro Secrets for Styling, Lighting, and Shooting Lara Ferroni

Plate to Pixel: digital food photography and styling Helene Dujardin

1,000 Food Art & Styling Ideas: Mouthwatering Food Presentations from Chefs, Photographers & Bloggers from Around the Globe Ari Bendersky

More Food Styling for Photographers & Stylists: A guide to creating your own appetizing art Linda Belligam

Technology

The most used preservation methods chosen by the food industry

26/01/2017
most used food preservation methods

From the beginning of human settlement, the need to preserve food and limit food spoilage was essential for survival. Since then, many household methods of food preservation, such as the addition of spices and fermentation, have evolved. In today’s modern commercial food production, spoilage and contamination are preserved by a variety of methods. Continue Reading…

Technology

Agriforestry: what it is and its benefits

24/01/2017
what it is agriforestry and its benefit

Behind climate change and the economic policy placed on the importance of environmental issues, sustainability is a perpetual challenge and agroforestry is one of the best tools we currently have at hand. Agroforestry plays a key role in helping the world adopt sustainable agriculture and contrast climate change. Continue Reading…