Multiscale mapping of the fruit's lifecycle from flower to fork by physics-based digital twins

Type. SNSF project

Funding. This PhD project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Duration. 4 years (2022-2026)

Collaborations. Citrus Research International

Contact. Thijs Defraeye (principal investigator).

Staff. Celine Verreydt (PhD student)

Project background. 

Up to one‐third of the world's plant-based foods are lost on their way from farm to consumer. We still do not exactly understand when or why this postharvest quality loss occurs within each of the hundreds of shipments in a supply chain, let alone how to reduce it. One challenge is that each fruit has its own preharvest physiological history when starting its postharvest journey, depending on the growing and harvest conditions. Another challenge is that no two shipments evolve the same in the cold chain, due to unpredictable technical and logistical conditions and stakeholder handling. These pre-and postharvest factors affect the physical, biochemical, physiological, and microbiological processes in these heat-sensitive products. As a result, the quality of each fruit inside each shipment evolves uniquely before landing on the consumer's table, which we still know little about. The extensive hygrothermal monitoring that is done during agricultural production, postharvest cooling, transport, and storage provides a part of the answer. We currently miss the link between these data and the resulting quality loss for every single fruit inside each cargo.

We aim to build physics-based digital twins of all fruit in a shipment that age in-silico with the real fruit from flower to fork. Sensor data are feeding these digital twins. They translate these data – in a mechanistic way – to food quality attributes, such as weight loss and juice content, soluble solids content, fruit damage by chilling injury, peel color, or pest mortality rate.

Pioneering physics-based digital twins from flower-to-fork turns the vast amounts of monitored data into actionable fruit metrics. These metrics empower supply-chain stakeholders to optimize growing conditions, cold-chain operations, and logistics in a new way, namely via decisions driven by the full fruit's physiological state rather than each stakeholder's assessment. That way, we can preserve plant-based foods better and provide more uniform fruit quality to the consumer. The reduced losses increase supply-chain resilience and reduce the energy required for refrigeration.


1.Defraeye T., Lukasse L., Shrivastava C.Verreydt C.Schemminger J., Cronje P., Berry T. (2022), Is there a systematic hidden 'hot spot' in refrigerated containers filled with fresh food in ventilated packaging?. Trends in Food Science & Technology 129, 388-396. DOI preprint.

Funding agency:



PhD student

Celine Verreydt


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