CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY PRESENTED SOLUTION TO PURIFY IRRIGATION WATER

IT IS A LOW-COST ECO-SYSTEM, WHICH IS INTENDED TO PROMOTE THE SAFE PRODUCTION OF VEGETABLES IN THE MAULE REGION.



January 13, 2017

The objective of the ecological systems implemented by the Food Safety Center of our University is the decontamination of water used for irrigation purposes, and to contribute to a safe production of vegetables in the region, in the localities of Lo Figueroa (Pencahue), Pelarco and Pelarco (San Clemente). 

The solutions, which have the advantage of not having chemicals added, will be aimed at improving the microbiological quality of the water for irrigation of agricultural fields through a system of eco filters that fulfill the function of a natural wetland.

The system uses low-cost construction and maintenance materials, such as different types of environment friendly grits and aquatic plants that, after the effect of the sun and the process of photosynthesis, enable purifying the waters from pollutants, such as suspended solids, organic matter, chemicals and microorganisms, among others. 

Safe Production

"Our intention is to improve the quality of the waters in the framework of a safe production of food in the Maule Region," said Ana Karina Peralta, Director of the Center for Food Safety. 

In addition, there is currently a widespread ignorance on the part of the farmers regarding the microbiological quality of the irrigation water used on their crops. 

The professional, who is an expert in security and food safety, stressed that faced with high levels of contamination of irrigation water, it is vital to generate a system of periodic monitoring, in addition to the incorporation of technology or filters to maintain the quality of the waters on a permanent basis, helping to decrease the risk for consumers. 

In that perspective, she emphasized that the wetlands built are an alternative of natural depuration, formed by shallow lagoons or channels that are planted with vegetables of the wetlands. In this environment, the process of decontamination takes place through the circulation of water and its interactions with the solid substrate, microorganisms, vegetation and fauna.

Contribution to the Region

The developed system is part of the project called "Transfer, Associativity and Food Safety in the Maule Region", which is financed by the Innovation Fund for Regional Competitiveness (FIC-R), an initiative that was valued by the Intendant, Pablo Meza.

"If we get good, low-cost, with easy deployment and environmentally -friendly irrigation water quality we will be giving a significant step to remain competitive in the production of vegetables, which is concentrated in the hands of small-scale agriculture that is a priority for our government," said Meza. 

He noted, moreover, that the actions developed in the project seek to "enhance the economic development of the region and, given that the Maule Region is the agricultural heartland of Chile, we have focused much of our efforts in this regard". 

For its part, the Vice President for Innovation and Technology Transfer of our Academic Institution, Gonzalo Herrera, expressed likewise opinions as to the purpose of contributing to agricultural producers, especially the smaller ones, to produce healthy foods, without health risks for the consumer, and this can be achieved by using simple technologies, accessible to all, but of great effectiveness".

The above-mentioned FIC-R project that runs the Center for Food Safety of the UTALCA extends until 2018. According to its director, the system implemented in Lo Figueroa is one of 10 of the same type, as a pilot endeavor, and demonstrative activity is the first developed jointly with vegetables suppliers.

Other activities of the same project are focused on the food safety at the industrial level, and with that aim it was developed the course that was imparted during the week at the Talca Campus, which was called "Introduction to the Microbiology of Foods in the Industry". 

This theoretical and practical event was aimed at workers in the agro-industrial area of the Maule Region.



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