ESPERA project serving the production of PGI Mantua pears

A technical and scientific approach based on concepts of innovation, collaboration, and circulari

The Politecnico di Milano is coordinating the project called ESPERA – Economia circolare e sostenibilità della filiera della pera IGP del Mantovano (Circular economy and sustainability of the production of PGI Mantua pears). Initiated last June, this three-year project is financed by the Lombardy Regional Government.

Principal investigator is Prof. Alessandro Torricelli from our Department of Physics. Participants in the study include our Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, the Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies at the CNR, the Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing at the CREA, and the Università degli Studi di Milano.

The overall goal of the project is to improve the management of the production chain of PGI Mantua pears using a technical and scientific approach based on recent concepts of innovation, collaboration, and circularity as ingredients in a sustainable agriculture system.

The project is characterised by its particular innovative features, which relate to various aspects.

Technological innovation: the use of a multidisciplinary approach that combines a new optical technique (picosecond laser spectroscopy in the near infrared) with an innovative model of kinetics to mature the fruit (biological age) in order to define the ripening indicators to use for selection when the fruit is harvested.

Product and process innovation: recovering scraps through a combined approach entailing the use of fruit with diseases or defects to produce dried rounds of pear — a new product with high nutritional value that extends the remaining life — and using the scraps from producing the rounds to extract nutrient-rich compost.

Business model innovation: The goal of the project is to advance knowledge and demonstrate the feasibility and sustainability of innovative models of the circular economy as applied to the Mantua pear production chain, and the Italian fruit and vegetable industry in general. This entails the development and experimentation of integrated technological solutions and the contextual redesign of management and logistics processes, thereby reconfiguring the production chain to manage food excess and waste.

The project will be carried out in external collaboration with Cooperativa Ortofrutticola, the direct beneficiary of the results. Through this, cultivars and fruit will be selected and existing processes in the production chain will be studied to find solutions to reduce waste, enhance the products, and increase the sustainability of the entire production system. The results of the project will also be transferred to indirect beneficiaries.