`Producers on Crete Look to DNA Analysis to Add Value - Olive Oil Times

Producers on Crete Look to DNA Analysis to Add Value

Dec. 7, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Local pro­duc­ers have joined forces with sci­en­tists In Chania, Crete, to iden­tify, ana­lyze and trans­fer the DNA iden­tity of olive oil from the field to the bot­tle, achiev­ing authen­tic­ity and trace­abil­ity for their local prod­ucts.

The pur­pose is to sig­nal the ori­gin and qual­ity of olive oil and cre­ate valu­able data for con­sumers, who will even­tu­ally have access to the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion on the bottle’s label.

A recent sur­vey demon­strated that 75 per­cent of con­sumers are will­ing to pay extra for prod­ucts with a clean and trans­par­ent label, con­tain­ing sim­ple ingre­di­ents and con­sumer-friendly infor­ma­tion.

We have seen that con­sumers want trans­parency and crys­tal clear infor­ma­tion about what they buy,” Stelios Arhondakis, founder and CEO of the Cretan biotech com­pany BioCos, which devel­ops DNA-based trace­abil­ity solu­tions for food prod­ucts, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Decorated Olive Oil Bottles to Be Auctioned as Crypto Assets

In advance, the shift to super-inten­sive [super-high-den­sity] cul­ti­va­tion, which means high yields of olive oil, leaves out the local pro­duc­ers, flat­ten­ing the com­mer­cial value of their extra vir­gin olive oil,” he added.

Such prac­tices also impact the bio­di­ver­sity of the adja­cent areas, reduc­ing the pro­duc­ers’ income in the long run,” Arhondakis con­tin­ued. On the other hand, cre­at­ing a geo-genetic data­base of logged olive orchards, along with their extra vir­gin olive oil, adds value to the pro­duc­ers and their olive oil, which in turn enhances the pri­mary sec­tor and its sus­tain­able pro­file.”

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Everything starts in the field, col­lect­ing leaf sam­ples from the olive orchards and cre­at­ing a map that stores the DNA pro­files of the trees in a process called geo-genetic map­ping.

Geo-genetic map­ping tracks and records the genes of the trees and then iden­ti­fies the same genes in the olive oil pro­duced from the spe­cific orchard,” Arhondakis said.

In the final stage of the method, machine learn­ing and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence tech­niques are used to process the DNA pro­files to cre­ate a dig­i­tal DNA fin­ger­print, which fol­lows the prod­uct from the field to the bot­tle.

This process elim­i­nates human inter­fer­ence with DNA data inter­pre­ta­tion and stor­age, accel­er­at­ing time to results and secur­ing reli­a­bil­ity,” Arhondakis said.

The DNA fin­ger­prints of the olive oil are then stored on a blockchain, along with other infor­ma­tion includ­ing the har­vest year, loca­tion and qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced.

Blockchain tech­nol­ogy has started to gain momen­tum in the olive oil indus­try, offer­ing the abil­ity to pro­duc­ers, traders and con­sumers to track the com­plete course of olive oil from the moment of pro­duc­tion through the whole sup­ply chain.

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Crete, Greece

The approach of the Cretan sci­en­tists is one of the first to iden­tify and record the DNA pro­file of the olive oil and then securely store the data in a blockchain data­base.

DNABlockchain pro­vides a sim­ple yet robust track­ing sys­tem of the olive oil along the whole pro­duc­tion process,” Arhindakis said. This way con­sumers can gain access to the true story of an extra vir­gin olive oil, thanks to its genetic iden­tity.”

Producers in Chania who par­tic­i­pate in the project have wel­comed the oppor­tu­nity to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from the com­pe­ti­tion and add value to their extra vir­gin olive oil.

Through this project, the aim is to con­nect our local pro­duc­ers and their olive orchards, all the way to the pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil and the bot­tle,” Fotis Sousalis of Terra Creta, an award-win­ning olive oil pro­ducer based in Kolymvari near Chania, told Olive Oil Times.

At present, we have com­pleted the col­lec­tion of the sam­ples from the orchards of the grow­ers we col­lab­o­rate with, to cre­ate our geo-genetic map and to build our DNA data­base,” Sousalis added. We all at Terra Creta embrace such inno­v­a­tive solu­tions that cer­tainly pro­mote and sup­port a more socio-cen­tric extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

For Mitera, another pro­ducer who has already mar­keted DNA-cer­ti­fied olive oil, the new tech­nol­ogy pro­vides first and fore­most the means to cel­e­brate the efforts of grow­ers and pro­duc­ers to achieve qual­ity.

We pro­duce pre­mium qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil from a selec­tion of olive trees planted in Crete more than 2,000 years ago,” the pro­duc­ers told Olive Oil Times. For us, the DNA blockchain tech­nol­ogy is a piv­otal step for­ward because it allows us to give recog­ni­tion to the her­itage of our pro­duc­ers in Crete and their high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

The DNA dig­i­ti­za­tion: Olive oil authen­tic­ity and trace­abil­ity from field to bot­tle” project is used in the con­text of the S3food ini­tia­tive for dig­i­tal inno­va­tion in the agri­food indus­try.

The ulti­mate aim of the project is to raise aware­ness of sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil and at the same time pro­vide olive oil with the value it deserves,” Arhondakis said. Moreover, it pro­vides the inclu­sive­ness and pro­mo­tion of pro­duc­ers who sup­port agro-bio­di­ver­sity and apply good prac­tices.”

It is our belief that this ini­tia­tive will pave the way to an open ecosys­tem around the extra vir­gin olive oil mar­ket of Crete and beyond, embrac­ing all value chain stake­hold­ers, and cre­at­ing a trust bond among the pro­duc­ers, the mar­ket and the con­sumers while restor­ing extra vir­gin olive oil val­u­a­tion,” he con­cluded.



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