Technological research and development in agri-food


IRTA is a research institute of the Government of Catalonia affiliated with the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food, and Natural Environment. Its general objectives are to promote research and technological development in agri-food, facilitate maximum coordination between the public and private sectors, and promote the transfer of knowledge and scientific advances to businesses.

IRTA's Postharvest Program

IRTA's Postharvest Program focuses on applying scientific and technical knowledge to address the main challenges in the postharvest handling of fruits and vegetables, from harvesting to the consumer.

This program encompasses aspects related to physiology, technology, pathology, and engineering in postharvest handling. It also includes fruit and vegetable processing from a technological perspective, food safety, and a Postharvest Technical Service that advises over 80 companies from various countries. The overall goal is to improve quality, extend shelf life, and minimize waste.

FRUITCENTRE, the headquarters of the postharvest program

The group is located in FRUITCENTRE in Lleida. This recently inaugurated building features five pilot plants: new conservation technologies, new classification and packaging technologies, a pilot plant for minimally processed fruits and vegetables, an industrial kitchen, and a pilot plant for the development of microorganisms for agri-food use.

Additionally, it has 32 refrigerated storage chambers with a total volume of over 1500 m3, allowing work within temperature ranges from -1°C to 50°C. There are also mesochambers and microchambers of various sizes to tailor the facilities to the client's needs.

There are 23 laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art scientific and technical equipment, covering areas such as postharvest physiology, technology, and pathology, minimally processed fruit laboratory, biosafety level 2 laboratory, and sensory analysis laboratory, among others.

The IRTA Postharvest Program offers its scientific expertise and innovative potential to evaluate, compare, or develop products, services, and procedures related to the horticultural sector, enhancing its competitiveness and sustainability. The main services can be divided into three categories: Postharvest Technical Service, Postharvest Conservation and Handling of Fruits and Vegetables, and Processed Fruit and Vegetable Sector.

Postharvest Technical Service

The Postharvest Technical Service (STP) is composed of a team with extensive experience in the fruit and vegetable sector, supported by postharvest researchers and Experimental Stations of IRTA.

Historically, STP activities began at the Lleida location, one of Spain's primary areas for sweet fruit cultivation, to meet sector demands and improve fruit quality. Currently, STP also has offices in Zaragoza, Girona, and southern Portugal, and it provides services in other parts of Spain and abroad through its participation in courses and projects in Latin America.

Services include technical assistance during the postharvest phase of fruits and vegetables, recommendations for conservation parameters, postharvest treatments, and verification of controlled atmosphere storage. Furthermore, the implementation and monitoring of quality systems (HACCP food safety protocols and traceability), as well as optional protocols (ISO standards and Global Gap), are just a few of the additional offerings to the horticultural industry.

Finally, STP also offers its clients the opportunity to provide training for food handlers, implement quality systems, or tailor services to the company's specific needs. Specific studies are also conducted for horticultural centers and auxiliary companies.

Plan de Recuperación, Transformación y Resiliencia Financiado por la Unión Europea