Microbiome-Informed Computational Models and Decision Support Tools to Predict Fresh Produce Spoilage: Spinach as a Model System￼
Microbial food spoilage is a significant economic, environmental and societal problem: 40% of food in the US is reported to go to waste, with 2/3 of this spoilage being estimated to result from unwanted microbial growth. The goal of this project is to develop a computational model of microbiome interactions and perturbations during processing, transportation and retail for predicting shelf life of fresh spinach. Prediction of food spoilage in the food industry to date is typically based on limited laboratory experiments and shelf-life studies conducted under a single or very few conditions. Actual product however is produced and distributed under a range of very different conditions throughout the supply chain. Hence, there is a need for transformative solutions to reduce food waste using a systems approach, in which innovative technologies are integrated across each stage of the supply chain to reduce the volume of food wasted. In this study, we will construct computational models and decision support tools to predict shelf life using both classical microbiological and metagenomics data. This work will serve as a basis to later develop and pilot transformational strategies to reduce food waste through more accurate shelf-life prediction.