For a sustainable citrus supply chain
They serve as fragrant fertilizer, basis for vegan meat substitutes and even raw material for sustainable fashion: the peels and fruit fibers left over from pressing orange juice. They are already being recycled – but not by default. The “ImPUlSe” project, led by the University Duisburg-Essen (UDE, Germany), wants to change that and also aims to render the entire suppy chain for citrus fruits in the Mediterranean region more sustainable. A total of € 1.3 million in funding will be provided*, € 530,000 from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will go to the UDE. Kick-off is on September 9.
“Innovation in the by-product supply chain of citrus in the Mediterranean area”, or ImPUlSe for short, is coordinated by the Centre for Logistics and Traffic (ZLV) at the UDE. From planting the seeds on the plantations to transporting them to the local supermarkets and recycling the peels and fibers – the international team wants to analyze and improve the processes by following the “triple bottom line” approach: All changes should be sustainable on an ecological, economic and social level.
The four pilot projects are located in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey. Besides the UDE as coordinator, research institutions and companies from all countries are involved, as well as a research partner from France: “Different disciplines are working hand in hand here. Thus, we will not only improve existing products, but also develop new supply chains for citrus by-products and open up new markets for producers from the Mediterranean region. Eventually, we will publish our results on an online platform and make them available to everyone, especially consumers”, explains spokesperson Dr. Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk, executive director of the ZLV.
This innovation platform is expected to encourage exchange between all participants – even beyond the duration of ImPUlSe. It is also a basis for researchers to assess the sustainability of the changes they have initiated. “We are developing an evaluation system that simulates different scenarios to facilitate work for decision-makers in agriculture, food processing, trade and politics”, says Melkonyan-Gottschalk.
In the long term, the interdisciplinary project aims to use and reuse resources more efficiently, develop digital solutions and establish more effective market mechanisms. As a result, the employment rate and quality of life in the Mediterranean region are expected to increase.
*EU funding within “Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area” (PRIMA).