Researchers in Kansas and Florida are working together to develop ways to improve the quality and extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

The four-year project involves Kansas State University and the University of Florida and will use tomatoes and spinach as their models, according to a news release.

The work is focused specifically on how to help small-scale growers who sell locally and may lack the washing, packing and cooling facilities needed to reduce post-harvest losses.

It is being funded by a $1 million Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grand from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The group will first develop pre- and post-harvest strategies in the lab, then vet them with local growers to determine the most practical.

The group also plans to develop digital tools, including a smartphone app, that will help growers assess produce losses on their farm.

Tomatoes, both hybrid and heirloom, and spinach were planted in high tunnels and open fields in both states. All are approved for organic production.

The post-harvest treatments being studied include hot-water dips, chemical washes and modified atmosphere packing.

The researchers have identified growers and industry association representatives from both states who have agreed to serve on a project advisory board.

Florida will examine different organic post-harvest physical and chemical treatments during sorting and washing of tomatoes and spinach.

K-State will lead the development of modified atmosphere packaging. Both universities will work to create the digital crop risk analysis tool and share the research with growers and agricultural educators.