The “Plant Revolution” at MACFRUT
They are called microgreens, yet micro actually stands for macro. They are micro due to their small size, but macro for their concentration of nutrients, vitamin content and naturalness but, above all, they have a great future ahead! In fact, it is no coincidence that this type of plants is defined as a healthy "super food" that is diametrically opposed to junk food, which is highly popular today. Microgreens are the new frontier of horticulture, a sector that is undergoing a major change globally, the protagonist of the 34th edition of Macfrut, the international exhibition for the fruit and vegetable sector (Rimini Expo Centre 10-12 May). We discussed this with the President of Macfrut, Renzo Piraccini.
Why does horticulture play such a key role?
“The global market is increasingly demanding less products of animal origin, such as meat and milk, whereas there is a growing demand for products of plant origin and that are grown with more natural techniques. In light of these trends, the industry is responding with innovative products and solutions. In the last few years, the fruit-growing sector has been the most dynamic one - just think, for instance, of the role of varietal innovations and the management of fruit clubs (the apple is the most striking case) - but now the horticultural sector is undergoing a revolution that will change the face of the industry."
In what way?
"Horticulture is likely to develop in the future, especially in protected environments - with the option of controlling humidity and the presence of insects - and we can also envisage crops that will require very little use, or even no use, of chemical synthesis products for plant protection. Therefore, this means more natural cultivation methods and more wholesome produce. But also new technologies that will allow for the cultivation of leafy greens vertically instead of horizontally. At Macfrut 2017 we will see the developments of the "Vertical Farm", which gives us a glimpse of the future of horticultural production areas that will be located next to large urban areas, also using unimaginable spaces such as the roofs of houses. The industry is currently inundated with a variety of innovations, in terms of technology but also in the seed sector, which are opening up a whole new frontier."
Can you give us some examples?
"The fresh-cut product sector, namely, of products ready for consumption, which has developed significantly in the last few years, has literally changed due to the advent of baby leafs. For those who are not familiar with the term, baby leafs are adult salads but smaller, with a minimum part cut out, therefore their shelf life is much longer than that of traditional salads, which are cut and oxidise quickly. Today, this category accounts for the bulk of sales and baby leafs, which is offered in an increasingly wide range, will definitely be the future of the industry."
So, we are speaking of mini vegetables or microgreens.
"These vegetables are harvested at a more advanced stage than traditional sprouts, but still before the adult stage. This means that these plants are not mature and have a large concentration of nutrients. A study conducted by the University of Maryland showed concentrations of vitamins in these microgreens that are up to 40 times higher than those of normal vegetables. This is why it is defined “super food”.
“Absolutely not! They are not the result of genetic research; in fact, they are traditional varieties. Many of them have been rediscovered thanks to their nutritional properties, such as Tuscan black cabbage or radish. Other species used include broccoli, basil, coriander, beans, peas, basil, spinach and many others."
How are they used?
Microgreens are primarily used as the main component of salads, but they are also used as garnishing, as a side dish, or as a basic ingredient for vegetable extracts and juices.
Where are microgreens grown?
“This is another great innovation that is bound to leave a mark. They are grown in unimaginable environments, also in cities, thanks to advanced household appliances available to families. But even in apartment buildings, in restaurants or supermarkets. We are talking about a vertical growing system and no longer of a horizontal system as we know it."
What role does Macfrut play in all this?
"It certainly has a role: this new scenario will be featured at the 2017 edition of Macfrut, to be held at the Rimini Expo Centre from 10 to 12 May. On this occasion, we will introduce global innovations regarding both industrial and domestic cultivation, including cutting-edge technological solutions for retail stores. We are talking about a field that will affect all the segments in the supply chain. The leading European traders of sprouts, microgreens and baby leafs will be present."
In practice, how will the sector be highlighted at Macfrut?
“We will dedicate the largest international opening conference of the trade fair to this plant revolution, as well as to new current trends and future scenarios. In addition, in "New Retail Solution", there will be an area dedicated to this innovative segment, which is set to change the industry."
Will this give new impetus to the seed sector?
“Of course! And not only for the new varieties resulting from research and selection, but also for the rediscovery of old varieties that will thus be revisited in terms of nutritional content. The seed sector certainly plays a key role in this scenario. This explains the strategic agreement that Macfrut has signed with Assosementi, the industry association that sees our trade fair as a means to accelerate these innovation processes and to promote the internationalisation of the supply chain."