Virtual tongue developed to predict taste of food products
Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) will participate in VIRTUOUS, a project with €1.1 million (AU$1.7 million) funding from the European Commission. VIRTUOUS stands for ‘Virtual tongue to predict the organoleptic profile of Mediterranean ingredients and their effect on human homeostasis by means of an integrated computational multiphysics platform’. The project will be delivered as a Marie Sklodowska Curie RISE (Research and Innovation Staff Exchange) Action of the Horizon 2020 Programme.
Coordinated by Politecnico di Torino in Italy, the project brings together agrifood sciences and artificial intelligence by creating a ‘virtual tongue’ by means of an integrated computational framework that can detect foods for natural ligands aimed at taste receptors.
The project aims to design a taste predictor that can be applied to European food products. The proposed smart algorithm at the heart of VIRTUOUS is based on drug discovery techniques blended with big data algorithms, and will predict the organoleptic profile of a specific food based on its chemical composition.
Results from this research will provide information about the mechanisms that control the transfer of information from the chemical level — where the molecular components of food meet the taste receptors — to a cascade of supra-molecular and cellular events, which combine in a complex sensation that contributes significantly to the organoleptic profile of a given foodstuff.
Researchers from nine institutions based in Italy, Greece, Spain and Switzerland are participating in the initiative. URG’s involvement includes academic staff from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Pharmacy, the School of Computer and Telecommunication Engineering and the SEGE Multidisciplinary Tasting Panel, with companies from the sector also participating.
VIRTUOUS can also be considered a ‘computer-aided design tool’ for EU food technology. Based on taste prediction, the VIRTUOUS platform could predict the results of grafting for a specific grape or be combined with other technologies to improve precision agriculture.
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