The efforts to build up sustainable food supply chain in Bulgaria through introduction of innovation is evidenced by number of projects launched in 2020 and 2021, trying to bring together food companies and R&D in the University of Food Technologies in Plovdiv.
In the European knowledge project FoodChains4EU, the Bulgarian project partners Euro Perspectives Foundation and University of Food Technologies had the opportunity to see how various European regions and Universities facilitate the support to companies from the food chain. The lessons learned from the partners in Emilia Romagna (adaptation of specific rulings for the production of Quality Controlled products) and Greater Manchester (GC Business Growth Hub) Regions inspired the Bulgarian partners to launch number of initiatives and projects to establish infrastructure for delivery of services for improved R&D and innovation implementation in food chain companies.
The efforts were focused on creation of links with the business and knowledge centers in Bulgaria and countries advanced in innovation in food and to help the business to become more competitive.
The project “RIS Consumer Engagement Labs” launched in 2020 (phase 1) and continued in 2021 (phase 2) facilitates collaboration between consumers (65+) and producers, yielding new food product concepts for elderly people. An innovative co-creation methodology was used by EIT Food RIS Consumer Engagement Labs project to analyze the senior consumers’ preferences and food-related behaviors and through online workshops to disseminate the results to local food companies thus support them in development of new products. Aging population is a big opportunity for the food chain businesses to innovate.
The project “Bulgarian Research Infrastructure for Food, Nutrition and Health” was initiated by the University of Food Technologies at the end of 2020 together with Agricultural University, Plovdiv University, Medical University, Thrakia University, Agrobioinstitute, Bulgarian Food Safety Agency and AgroHub.bg. The project will lasts 5 years and it is worth EUR 2.5 million. The main project goal is to bring together the existing resources of infrastructure for education, fundamental and applied research and to establish new capacity of human resources, research expertise and technological equipment in order to make use of the best scientific achievements in the area of agriculture, food technology and medicine. The aim is to unite and link all elements of the agri-food chain, nutrition, health digitalization processes and the implementation of innovative technologies.
Setting up a research center in the field of the healthy living industry is the third important project of UFT influenced by FoodChains4EU. The University of Food Technologies has started the establishment of a research center in the field of the healthy living industry. The center will attract universities, research institutes and companies from Bulgaria and abroad. Innovative products are under development and include probiotics in combination with ginseng grown in Bulgaria, foods for protection of the immune system – InnoImuFood. The products are in their initial phase of development.
Farmer Festival ”Produced on the Farm” supports innovation in small producers. In June 2021 the second edition of the Farmer's Festival "Made on the farm" was organized and hosted by the University of Food Technology in Plovdiv. Visitors of the event have the opportunity to taste and take a variety of farm and craft food from small producers from different parts of the country with preserved nature: cheese, yogurt, honey, jam, syrups, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers. Many of the foods are organic, most produced on family farms and by artisans from rural and Natura 2000 areas.