Challenges and opportunities for the Turkish food industry

Food Engineering & Ingredients speaks to Eppo Woortman about the Turkish food industry. Woortman, a specialist in cold-chain logisitics, moved from the Netherlands to Turkey in 2004, and since then has been sharing his expertise and advising Turkish food producers on the transport of perishable goods and fresh food preservation technology.

Food Engineering & Ingredients: Can you give us a bit of background about your observations of the Turkish food industry?

Eppo Woortman: Coming from the Netherlands I am always happy and proud to receive the remarks of respect from Turkish locals, for the way we Dutch deal with agricultural issues. Maybe the Dutch efficiency has to do with the fact that in the Netherlands there’s not that much space on which to grow crops. The growers (farmers) understand that they must work as efficiently as possible to optimize production. However, in Turkey, as agricultural space is not a major issue and the workforce is relatively young, this may be the reason that, no matter how much knowledge is shared, optimization is not readily executed.

Turkey has incredible potential for agricultural entrepreneurship which lies in its widely variant soil types, ideal seasonal climate, and its strategic geographical position – with the opportunity to supply half the world!

As a cold chain logistics and fresh food preservation consultant and solution provider, I introduced insulated pallet covers, ATP certified insulated containers and air purification systems. When going around to make introductions and presentations, I have seen many things not going quite as they should. However, I do believe that great things can, may and will happen when the necessary effort and investment are made. In fact, compared to when I arrived in 2004, huge steps of improvement have been put in place, and more are due to be set.

FEI: What are your findings from the past 16 years?

EW: Crop-rotation, the harvesting of those crops and the post-harvest logistical operations, are far from ideal. This may be caused by a lack in education or by incorrect information provided or shared by those more financially involved, such as suppliers and traders of chemicals and equipment.

FEI: Can you give some examples?

EW: Where in earlier years regions as Beypazarı and Konya were known as traditional carrot areas, farmers in these regions are now often confronted with black rot. Growng the same kind of crop repeatedly on the fields has made the soil poor in the minerals required, which has enabled the growth of diseases in the soil.

In other regions where farmers previously grew apples, they are now switching or have switched to Kiwi fruit, but often they are doing this without having sufficient knowledge to get the best out of these fruits.

In addition, farmers speculating with produce like onions, kiwi and others are leading to increased volumes of food waste due to inadequate storage or storage conditions.

FEI: What are you most concerned about?

EW: Too often farmers don’t have access to the right knowhow or even get falsely informed. They are not in a position to experiment or study further about better and more sustainable storage solutions. Although most of the farmers have heard about Controlled Atmosphere, Ultra Low Oxygen (CA/ULO) storage and even Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA), they continue to use the much cheaper – yet still very expensive – semi-chemical solution 1-MCP (1-Methylcyclopropene) to preserve their produce. 1-MCP is sold under many names, the most well-known are Agri-Fresh and Smart-Fresh. Incorrect treatment of, for example, Kiwi fruit with 1-MCP leads to less or even non-receptive ripening “ethylene” gas, resulting in Kiwi fruit without any taste entering the market. This is because their natural ripening process was blocked shortly after harvest.

But, to be be honest, this is not just a problem in Turkey. The use of 1-MCP is in overdrive and we appear to be okay with it. Fruit looks so fresh once treated with it! When did you eat a pear as juicy and sweet as you remember from 30 years ago? We keep on trying to achieve a better, more optimized world. Knowing there is a long way to go, I’ll go on here… in beautiful Turkey!

Bluezone – fresh preservation technology

DEISKO is a Turkish company, wholly privately owned by Dutch entrepreneur, Eppo Woortman, who moved from the Netherlands to Istanbul, Turkey in 2004. Woortman is an expert in the field of cold chain logistics and advises on ways to improve fresh and frozen food distribution/logistics as well as methods to simplify operations to reduce food waste. The company and its owner have gained significant recognition in this sector by improving the effectiveness of the food supply chain with trademarks such as Olivo and Combi-Therm.

Fresh preservation technology
In 2017 DEISKO added the Bluezone “fresh preservation technology” to its portfolio. Bluezone is a revolutionary technology that kills or converts airborne contaminants with ultraviolet-enhanced oxidation – a breakthrough approach to air purification. Instead of capturing and concentrating airborne contaminants in a particle filter or activated carbon, Bluezone kills or converts chemical and biological impurities. Dangerous microbes such as powdery mildew and botrytis are killed, and chemicals are broken down so that the air circulated through the Bluezone comes out clean and fresh. Bluezone works by drawing air into a self-contained reaction chamber and killing contaminants with ultraviolet-enhanced oxidation. To achieve maximum kill-rate, Bluezone attacks different airborne contaminants differently. Some airborne contaminants such as ethylene are converted to H2O and CO2 via an oxidation process. Other airborne contaminants such as fungus-like powdery mildew or botrytis are killed instantly with Bluezone’s self-contained ultraviolet light. Oxidation and ultraviolet irradiation happen completely inside the reaction chamber, which is engineered to address the specific microbial and chemical contaminants in growhouses and produce storage, extrending the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables.

The modulal system is light and mobile and can be easily configured for any size of storage facility. DEISKO is the official European Bluezone Products distributor, with an active network of Regional Bluezone Distribution Coordinators covering the NORDIC countries, Benelux, Ireland, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Turkey. DEISKO is looking for partners to cooperate with them in the other regions of the EU.