Globally, food loss and postharvest waste are estimated at 30 to 40% of production. Losses of perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables can be even higher during the postharvest period, depending on the weather, access to storage, or distance to markets.

Utilizing improved postharvest practices often results in reduced food losses, improved overall quality and food safety, and generates higher profits for growers and marketers.

Chile and California have a diversified agriculture with hundreds of specialty crops and share a number of fruit and vegetable varieties. However, due to their counter-season growing climates the two geographies often target the same overseas market. Thus, a natural collaboration area is to address post-harvest issues which are of high importance to our agricultural industries.

Fresh fruits and other perishable products vulnerable to post-harvest losses represent Chile’s largest food exporting industry or about 1/3 of the total exports. A high percentage of the Chilean agricultural exports are comprised of fresh fruit, a perishable product that needs optimal conditions to reach properly to the final destination. Chile’s isolated geographical condition and consequently long distances to the markets present unique challenges to the industry and demands unique needs to breed for traits and develop technologies geographically adapted. Even for the local market, California must cover long distances supplying fresh fruit and vegetables to the rest of the country.

This has motivated UC Davis to address post-harvest issues through plant breeding efforts and through the Postharvest Technology Center which is working to reduce postharvest losses and improve the quality, safety and marketability of fresh horticultural products. In addition, other multi-disciplinary efforts at UC Davis are exploring different areas such as packaging, as well as studies to set the properties and recommended conditions for the long term storage of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Two of the latest challenges have been to study how to keep good fruit conditions without affecting the taste and how to improve the handling of a range of species like stone fruit, citrus, avocados and berries. Other issues addressed are the effects of processing on quality and nutritional characteristics, microbial food safety, and consumers attitudes and perceptions A strategic alliance between UC Davis and Chile may result in utilizing biotechnology and advanced tools to develop traits that reduce post-harvest losses and increase marketability of fresh fruit and horticultural products.