Within the U.S., households throw out round 30 million tons of food every year—almost twice as a lot because the produce wasted on farms. In another elements of the world, the scenario flips: Due to a lack of infrastructure and unreliable electrical energy, food usually can’t be refrigerated, and it rots earlier than it may be offered to customers.
However new know-how might assist get rid of the necessity for chilly storage. Farther Farms, a startup primarily based in upstate New York, developed a new sort of pasteurization that makes food last longer, so perishable food can sit on a shelf as an alternative of in a fridge. As a proof of idea, the corporate made packaged french fries—food that will usually be offered frozen—that may sit at room temperature for 90 days earlier than it’s eaten. Even higher: The method doesn’t use synthetic preservatives.
Cofounder Vipul Saran developed the tech as a grad pupil at Cornell College. Saran grew up in a farming household in India and noticed how difficult it was to ship produce (of their case, potatoes) within the provide chain. The mandatory infrastructure was minimal and costly to make use of; refrigerated transport containers generally price greater than the worth of the produce itself. At Cornell, he began exploring an alternate. “The entire aim was, mainly, how can we glance into new, revolutionary food processing applied sciences that may enable us to create value-added food merchandise from these perishable food merchandise, which avoids the necessity and the dependency as a lot as potential on refrigeration and freezing?” he says.
When one thing like milk is pasteurized, it’s shortly heated utilizing steam to kill pathogens. The brand new course of makes use of carbon dioxide as an alternative. The food is packed in proprietary packaging, then processed with high-pressure (“supercritical”) CO2, at a reasonably excessive temperature, which the corporate’s research have discovered inactivates microorganisms and enzymatic exercise. At scale, the CO2 can be utilized in a closed loop and captured on the finish of the day to reuse within the system the following day.
“Due to our use of carbon dioxide as an alternative of steam or water, the product harm to vitamin is considerably much less, however we obtain security in the identical approach as milk is pasteurized, or as beer is pasteurized, or as cheese is pasteurized,” says CEO Mike Annunziata. The method goes farther than regular pasteurization, just like the ultra-high-temperature processing generally used to make milk shelf-stable, however without affecting taste. (The founders additionally observe that in case you tried to make use of typical pasteurization on a french fry, you’d find yourself with mashed potatoes.)
Although the corporate’s shelf-stable fries are its first providing, the identical course of will also be used on different varieties of perishable food. The startup has examined different greens, salsa, dairy merchandise resembling paneer, and cooked rooster, all of which can have related shelf lives. They’re centered on processed meals—french fries as an alternative of potatoes, or salsa as an alternative of tomatoes—to assist generate extra financial worth for farmers.
As a result of the merchandise can extra simply journey lengthy distances, it additionally opens up new markets. “For those who can start producing internationally and create markets for value-added food merchandise that don’t at the moment exist, you’re going to do probably the most to assist farmers,” says Saran. In India, the place hundreds of thousands of farmers stay in poverty, and the place food value $14 billion is wasted every year, the tech might assist create new alternatives. It may possibly additionally assist in the U.S., since refrigerated vehicles and chilly storage improve each the price and carbon footprint of food.
The startup hopes to work globally. “We envision a world the place this know-how is on each continent, actually having an influence on farmers who wish to course of their food, and switch it into value-added merchandise to earn a premium,” says Annunziata.