In accordance with the Campus da Auga, the cluster places water as the primary focus that connects all the food production cycle stages, considering the use of waste generated at each stage, its relationship with the environment, and water quality as a vulnerable resource.
The Strategic Cluster CITACA (Agri-food Research and Transfer Cluster, Campus da Auga), was created as a bottom-up initiative from one of the R&D multiclusters in the Campus da Auga: Cluster 1 “Food, Environment and ICTs”, which unites several groups from the Faculty of Sciences in the Campus of Ourense of the University of Vigo (AA1, BV1, EQ4, EQ11), which in the last year had collaborated within the specialization area of food and environment in different research activities related with agricultural soils, food processing industry, valuing of by-products from this activity and with quality and food safety, and the group from the School of Computer Engineering LIA2 which, from the ICT specialization area, also performs collaborative works with some of the researchers from those groups.
The specialisation of the Campus of Ourense as Campus da Auga made clear that it was necessary to give water a fundamental value as centre line for all the activities, both because of its importance for the crops and food elaboration and because of the polluting effect of these activities on the natural water quality due to the nutrients and phytosanitary products infiltration phenomena from soil to groundwater and from the effluents dumping from the transformation industry into the rivers. It was then decided to complete the production cycle (from farm to fork), including two new groups from the Faculty of Biology from the University of Vigo which research the agroecosystems biological interactions (BVE1) and the biotechnology and plant production (BV6), and to focus the study in all the production stages related with water, while considering the two mentioned aspects: the quality of the water used and the resources conservation.
Following the Strategic Research Agenda 2016-2020 from the Spanish Water Technological Platform and its Work Group “GT2: Water in agriculture and water-energy binomial, the principle “More food and more safety and quality for each water drop” was adopted, as an ultimate goal to be followed and incorporated within the two research goals of the cluster along the whole chain focusing on the following aspects:
- The role of the agricultural soils in the water protection, conservation and purification in the context of mainly conventional agriculture and of agricultural valuation of by-products and potentially polluting effluents.
- The agronomic research for the reduction of water requirements and of potentially polluting agricultural inputs.
- The optimisation of raw materials use in the food processing, including the valuing of by-products and design of food and ingredients of higher nutritional, organoleptic and functional quality which, at the same time, contribute to the development, diversification and sustainability of the food industry.
- The safe reusing of by-products and wastewaters as agricultural inputs for the primary production.
To achieve this it was decided to include a new group from the University of Santiago de Compostela (GI-2058) which works on the assessment of environmental impacts and modelling of pollutant transfers between different matrices (water, air, soil, trophic chain), and a group of the Faculty Chemistry of the Campus of Vigo (QO3), expert in advanced synthesis tools, structural analysis and chemical modelling which were considered relevant as transversal complements in diverse work lines, particularly on those related with the chemical evolution of the pollutants in the environment and with the processes of enzymatic catalysis, in order to lead to the formulation of more ambitious research objectives.