PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight – Federico Gomez

Federico Gómez is professor at Department of Food Technology, Engineering and Nutrition, and the upcoming new director of PlantLink!

What is currently on top of your research agenda?

Our research team focuses on the application of electrotechnologies for food processing. Pulsed electric field (PEF) and moderate electric field (MEF) are applied to harvested vegetables as pre-treatment prior to drying, freezing or packing as ready-to-eat salads. The role of PEF and MEF as stressors is investigated as well as the consequence of metabolic responses on the quality of the final product.

Plant-based food and alternative proteins is also on the top of my research interests. I have mostly worked with developing of products together with students

-Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest paper is the result of an interdisciplinary project where researchers from food engineering, plant physiology and material science collaborated. The first author is my PhD student Grant Thamkaew.

In this paper, we showed that when PEF is applied to stress Thai basil leaves 24h prior to drying at low temperature, few cells survived certain levels of dehydration. The application of PEF to the leaves provoked elevated metabolism, indicating an increased mobilization of energy. Results reflect a metabolism reacting to the stress provoked by the PEF application, inducing a stress acclimation and cross-tolerance in cells, thus having a better capacity to survive a following dehydration. Future studies should elucidate these protective mechanisms.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

I started to study the influence of plant stress physiology on food processing operations in my PhD project. My research on electrotechnologies started from my post-doc times, as the founding agency was interested on novel, “green” processing technologies and there was already some experience on PEF in my department.

-What are the implications of your research for the society?

The world’s food system is facing serious challenges in the modern society. There is need of developing and design processing technologies that would reduce energy and water consumption, reduce waste and ensure a safe and high quality product. Among these technologies, electrotechnologies have recently began to be successfully implemented in the industry. Equipment for PEF delivery has been installed in many factories around the word, mostly for juice pasteurization, potato processing and olive oil extraction.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

I would use the money to start a national or Nordic centre of excellence on food product development and green processing technologies.

Thank you Federico! We wish you the best of luck with your research,  and also in your new role as PlantLink director!

(Photo: Hilde Skar Olsen, Communicator at the department of food technology, engineering and nutrition, LTH)