Dr Marina Ezcurra and Dr Jenny Tullet, both scientists in the Biology of Ageing at the University of Kent, have recently received research funding of £318K from Innovate UK for their project ‘Upcycled Food: Getting the Goodness out of Kent Cherries’, an initiative to innovate agricultural food production by using cherry waste to create new highly nutritious foods.
Kent is the largest cherry producer in the UK, which is highly beneficial for its economy. Cherries are primarily sold as high-class fresh fruit, but supermarkets won’t sell lower grade fruit (e.g. bruised, soft or discoloured despite its tastiness and high nutritional value). These ‘waste cherries’ are transported by lorry to landfill, negatively impacting productivity, carbon emissions and sustainability.
Worldwide, cherry-based products are popular health foods due to their high content of natural compounds called anthocyanins. In this project the University of Kent team will work together with Kent cherry grower Michael Dallaway (owner of ‘Rent a Cherry Tree’) to determine the health benefits of a variety of Kent cherry products. This will provide Michael and other local growers with strong scientific knowledge on their products. A growing consumer demand for healthy and sustainable products that also reduce waste provides a major opportunity for these growers to expand by targeting a wider customer-base. This will create jobs, promote economic growth, and reduce agricultural waste in Kent and beyond. The company is a Growing Kent & Medway business partner, and has received support from the Growing Kent & Medway team to apply for this funding.
This funding success is part of Kent’s wider focus on addressing real-world challenges and finding solutions to the urgent environmental issues facing the world today through the Positive Environmental Futures Signature Research Theme. This innovative, creative and inclusive community is designed to be responsive to environmental challenges and pro-active in its use of collaborative knowledge to affect positive change.
Congratulations to Marina and Jenny on this achievement.