The paradigm of the connection between agriculture, nutrition and research for ensuring a good state of health of people has always been the ethical underlying theme of reference of I.D.Tech's work. From the point of view of the problem of malnutrition, for us this means that agricultural technologies as well as food must guarantee not only sustenance but first and foremost rare micronutrients to ensure full health through a complete diet, so as to eliminate so-called 'hidden hunger'. In fact, hidden hunger, i.e. the lack of trace minerals in a normal diet, is a phenomenon that is present not only in the developing world, but also in advanced countries where the problem of the deficiency of energy provided by food does not exist.
The main strategies brought forth to reduce trace mineral deficiencies shared by I.D.Tech are essentially: teaching diet diversification based on the needs of male and female youths, adults and seniors; the direct micronutrient supplementation of food, but only using bioavailable natural substances; the selective bioenrichment of plant crops during growth (so-called 'breeding'), i.e. the study of the nutritional properties of various plant varieties so as to opt for those featuring more useful characteristics, without genetically modifying existing varieties; the agronomic bioenrichment of edible crop parts using fertilizers or other technologies aimed at increasing the trace minerals contained in said crops during growth (so-called 'agronomic biofortification'). It is in the field of agronomic biofortification that I.D.Tech has mainly focused its R&D activities by developing aqueous-based solutions for foliar sprays able to naturally integrate trace minerals in vegetable products using technology that respects the environment (soil, plants, insects, animals) and not GMOs.
When treating the problem of trace mineral deficiency, the preferred solution consists of diet diversification with the consumption of foods rich in micronutrients, for improving the overall quality of the diet, as opposed to administering a single nutrient. This approach is supported by three different factors:
- the complexity of nutrient-nutrient interaction increases the availability of the nutrient when the micronutrients are consumed simultaneously;
- the growing evidence of the protective role of antioxidants and of the phytochemical compounds of plants, to ensure good health;
- the expansion of scientific knowledge that links nutrition with the onset of diseases and entails a broader range of nutrients that carry out a variety of roles in health preservation.
It is in this direction that Prof. Pifferi R&D Director of I.D.Tech, has directed the research and development of various patents, which include the selenium-enrichment of potatoes and the post-harvest treatment of vegetable produce using iodine and/or with natural anti-tumorals of vegetable origin (i.e. phytochemicals) as an anti-germinant. Finally, I.D.Tech has studied and developed a turnkey agronomic enrichment technology with foliar spray solution for obtaining plant products, in particular, for Italy and the EU, grapes (and their by-products obtained through biological and technological transformation, e.g. juices, wine and vinegar), as well as rice, a food with marked nutritional characteristics, which constitutes the basic diet of more than one third of the world’s population – firstly Asia - enriched in two trace minerals, namely selenium and lithium, which resulted in Italian and International patents.
- Ross M. Welch, Robin D. Graham, Agriculture: the real nexus for enhancing bioavailable microelements in food crops. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Volume 18, Issue 4, 27 June 2005, Pages 299–307.
- Ross M. Welch, Robin D. Graham, A new paradigm for world agriculture: productive, sustainable, nutritious, healthful food systems. Food & Nutrition Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 4, December 2000 , pp. 361-366(6). Publication date: 2000-12-01.
- Gina Kennedy, Guy Nantel e Prakesh Shetty, The scourge of "hidden hunger": global dimensions of micronutrient deficiencies. Food, Nutr. Agric. (2003) 32, 8-16
- Ross M. Welch and Robin D. Graham, Breeding for micronutrients in staple food crops from a human nutrition perspective. J. Exp. Bot. (2004) 55 (396): 353-364.
- Martin R. Broadley, Philip J. White, Rosie J. Bryson, Mark C. Meacham, Helen C. Bowen, Sarah E. Johnson, Malcolm J. Hawkesford, Steve P. McGrath, Fang-Jie Zhao, Neil Breward, Miles Harriman and Mark Tucker,Bioforti?cation of UK food crops with selenium. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2006), 65, 169–181.