Cambridge Crops

LOCATION: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

SUMMARY: Together with MIT and Tufts University, Cambridge Crops has developed an innovative biomaterial coating that is able to dramatically extend the shelf life of perishable foods by up to 50%. Our coating technology can reduce food waste from the farm to table in both developed and developing countries.

PROBLEM SPACE: One-third of the food produced in the World is lost or wasted, making up for a total of about 1.3 billion tons of food losses every year. According to a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published in 2012 (Gunders, 2012), in the United States alone about 40% of all food produced or imported, worth an estimated $165 billion, is wasted every year. This percentage increases to 52% when considering fruits and vegetables. The financial burden on the agribusiness industry is estimated being more than $42 billion per year (Sager, 2013). Half of this waste, accounting for more than $22bn is a direct consequence of cold chain breakages and results from temperature-related physiological deterioration.

SOLUTION: “The coating technology is based on a patented water-based solution made of silk fibroin. It is biocompatible, hypoallergenic, technological (tunable release profile), and it is processed in only water at low temperatures. The coating is natural, biodegradable, odorless, and edible.

The scientific team published an article in Nature (Scientific Reports), highlighting the potentials of the coating technology to extends shelf-life of climacteric and non-climacteric fruits by up to 50%.

The water-based post-processing control of the protein polymorphism enables the modulation of the diffusion of gases through the silk fibroin thin membranes (e.g. O2 and CO2 diffusion, water vapor permeability), which is a key parameter to manage food freshness.

By coating strawberries and bananas as proof of principle, the team has shown that the formation of micrometer-thin silk fibroin membranes around the fruits helps the management of postharvest physiology of the fruits. It slows down the respiration rate as well as the weight loss of fruits confirming the critical role of the coating in shelf-life extension.

The coating is effective among a variety of fruits and vegetables, both climacteric and non-climacteric, as well as other perishable products (flowers, meat, etc.).”

CONTACT: [email protected]