Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc, PhD

Dr Lorraine Fisher obtained her BSc in Biological Sciences from the University West of England (2008-2011) culminating in a final year project on the effects of salt stress on heat resistance in the algae Chlorella vulgaris. In 2011 she undertook an industry-sponsored PhD at the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the Energy Crop Biology research group with Dr Maurice Bosch and Professor Luis Mur. Here she exploited the model grass, Brachypodium distachyon, to investigate drought resistance mechanisms through a combination of phenotyping and RNA sequencing investigations, with supplementary studies into the cell wall, utilising high performance liquid chromatography and FTIR spectrometry. During this time, Dr Fisher also carried out various drought screens on the grass Lolium perenne with the International grass seed company DLF Trifolium, based in Denmark.

In February 2016, Dr Fisher joined the Natural Resources Institute at University of Greenwich, where she worked directly with Southern Salads under the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership initiative. Here she was responsible for disseminating knowledge to and from commerce and academia, providing scientific support on both strategic and operational levels. She also developed practical quality assays and methods for the detection of physiological characteristics relating to a specific stress response in salad leaves.

Her current role, Enterprise Development Fellow, allows her to expand on her research in applied postharvest plant physiology whilst continuing to engage with stakeholders from across the UK AgriTech sector. By collaborating with the fresh produce industries Lorraine looks to support the reduction of waste and emissions and promote sustainable food production and security.

Dr Fisher also has provided training and support to BSc and MSc students, presented at International conferences and been involved in a number of public engagement events.

Dr Fisher’s initial interests centred around abiotic stresses. Research from her PhD thesis into drought response mechanisms in grasses provides an insight into the behaviour of a wide range of crops during postharvest storage. This cross-over communication between subject disciplines has proven to be extremely useful when searching for innovative solutions to address challenges in applied crop science. To date, Lorraine enjoys offering independent research into crop quality relating to abiotic stress, by way of both scientific study and commercial engagement and experience.

Most recently Lorraine has focused on improving shelf life, storage and packaging of fresh produce; investigating the impact of edible films and coatings as alternatives to plastic, as well as carrying out investigations into modified atmosphere packaging of leaf crops. Upcoming trials into the impact of recycled materials on the performance of plastics to prevent food waste are scheduled, with the aim of supporting major UK industries to meet the 2025 Courtauld Commitment pledges.

Case Studies investigating the effects of recycled and compostable films on fresh produce

As producers, packagers and retailers look to meet Courtauld commitments by 2025, many existing packaging solutions will no longer be acceptable. This is particularly challenging for handling of perishable food products where the packaging environment is critical. There is a need to understand the response of produce to alternative packaging solutions. The Produce Quality Centre is coordinating a network of academic and commercial experts in materials science (recyclable and compostable plastics, biocomposites, edible coatings) supply chains and postharvest plant physiology. To date, the network has attracted interest and support from fellow academics from Brunel University, Bangor University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and the University of Sheffield, as well as industry stakeholders, including Solutions 4 Plastics, Amcor, and Nextec. The network allows for the creation of bespoke case studies to showcase feasibility, provide proof of concepts, understand effects due to changes in modified atmosphere and water transmission rates, investigate the impact of supply chain variations, and anticipate end of life scenarios for both food waste and packaging.

BerryWorld commercial trials on Modified Atmosphere Packaging variations for shelf life extension and food waste reduction

Exploiting the Produce Quality Centre’s bespoke storage monitoring system, Minipods™, designed for the simultaneous control and monitoring of respiratory characteristics of fresh produce, as well as qualitative and quantitative assessments a study was carried out on the impact of the initial atmosphere within sealed punnets on shelf life.

BBSRC Newton Funded bio-based packaging for fresh food project (BiofreshPak)

Focused on development of low-cost biodegradable film for the fresh produce supply chain in India by incorporation of waste starch, with the objectives to:

  • reduce wastage by improving the storage stability and shelf life of food during transit between the producer and the urban consumer
  • reduce the level of adulteration via sealable and tamper-evident features
  • reduce urban solid waste from packaging going to landfill
  • improve health and well-being of the population by improved retention of nutritional quality and reducing risk of spoilage in fruit and vegetables.

To achieve these objectives, the role of the PQC in this project includes investigations into the response of produce to storage environments typically found in Indian supply chains, and how low cost packaging might be used in this context to extend shelf-life and reduce losses. 

Commercial trials investigating the quality and shelf life of asparagus packaged in modified atmosphere whilst in sea freight transit

Providing support to a major fresh produce company importing asparagus for the UK market. Quality assessments and analyses were conducted to understand and optimise the effects of modified atmosphere packaging during sea freight.

Commercial trials on the application of Semperfresh™ edible coatings to improve quality – AgriCoat Ltd

These projects include supportive planning and the implementation of commercial trials to study and quantify the key quality aspects of fresh produce over the storage and shelf-life period to certify the effectiveness of experimental variations of Semperfresh™.

Trials include the examination of high volume and high value produce, such as conference pears and avocado fruit. These trials have verified the effectiveness of Semperfresh™ compared to untreated controls as a means to extend shelf-life for produce as retailers look to move away from plastic packaging.

Industrial placement to control factors inducing discolouration in salad leaves - Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership and Southern Salads

A two-year project investigated factors causing spoilage of cut lettuce namely pinking, browning and wetness; the main aims being to improve quality and shelf-life, reduce wastage and eliminate related customer complaints. Consultation was conducted across the supply chain (including growers, agronomists, seed companies, processing and packaging technologists), with fellow academics and other stakeholders to investigate whole head and cut edge pinking. This led to the development and implementation of a series of independent laboratory studies to research specific modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) conditions believed to relate to cut-edge pinking. The results clearly identified the production line processes that impact on MAP conditions and can exacerbate pinking. This allowed the project to conclude with a proposal of changes in technology and practice to find an equilibrium between conditions required for different quality factors, ultimately optimising shelf life and reducing waste.

  • Fisher L. H. C., Han J., Corke F. M. K., Akinyemi Aderemi, Didion T, Nielsen K., Doonan J. H., Mur L. A. J., Bosch M (2016). Linking Dynamic Phenotyping with Metabolite Analysis to Study Natural Variation in Drought Responses of Brachypodium distachyon. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 1751
  • Lenk, I., Fisher, L.H.C, Vickers, M., Akinyemi, A., Didion, T., Swain, M., Jensen, C. S., Mur, L.A.J., & Bosch, M. (2019). Transcriptional and Metabolomic Analyses Indicate that Cell Wall Properties are Associated with Drought Tolerance in Brachypodium distachyon. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(7), 1758.
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