Omni-science: transformative approaches to postharvest technology


  • G. Thorpe Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, Australia 8001, Email:



Postharvest technology is predicted to experience a transformation over the next couple of decades. Some of the changes may be wrought by as yet unforeseen developments in science, but others will result from the rapid evolution of computer software and hardware. Commercial software is presently available that integrates many strands of engineering science such as structural mechanics, the flow of particulate solids, the distribution of gases within buildings and thermal analysis. The software also enables interactions between these various processes, and the approach is referred to as multi-physics. Commercially available software can be tailored to account for biological phenomena such as the effects of the microenvironments in grain stores on the viability of seeds, the rate of decay of pesticides, the propensity of insect populations to increase and so on. The time is ripe to integrate these chemicobiological aspects of grain storage with multi-physics to form what might be dubbed an omni-scientific approach to postharvest technology. The development of such an approach will help unify the disparate sciences involved in grain handling, and it will provide an explicit overarching intellectual framework into which individuals' work will fit. Information and communications technology will not only enable technical problems to be addressed, but it will enable a range of specialists to contribute simultaneously to solving particular problems. Such a scenario will have a profound effect on the postharvest profession, and it will require a radically new approach to the education and formation of stored grains technologists. These specialists must continue to have deep knowledge of specialised areas of science such as genetics, analytical chemistry, fluid dynamics and so on, but they must also be familiar with the integrating software tools and a broad range of science. Postharvest professionals will need to be familiar with several scientific disciplines, i.e. they will need to be omni-scientists, whilst recognising that omniscience is unattainable.

Keywords: Omni-science, Multiphysics, Postharvest, Grains, Storage.