The substantial environmental impact of the food industry has brought the need to implement more environmentally friendly solutions that enhance both productivity and sustainability. A clear example of this is bio-based edible coatings, which are indispensable to meet the demands of today’s market.
These solutions, also known as organic packaging, are essential for producers to position themselves among consumers increasingly aware of what they eat, driving sustainability even more in the food industry.
The new focus of the Agtech Industry
The food sector, precisely that that links the technology with the food industry, has been experiencing a boom in recent years that has allowed it to become one of the most attractive sectors for investment. A simple example is the AgFunder reports; they stated that in the first half of 2021 alone, food industry scale-ups raised $24 billion in investment. This figure is almost equivalent to the total raised during 2020 by companies in the sector.
Despite the effects of COVID-19 on the world’s economies, the food sector has managed to boost its development thanks to innovation, which is vital for generating solutions that are both efficient and eco-friendly.
Bio-based edible coatings: empowering the organic food sector
PolyNatural is an excellent example of how the agricultural industry and new technologies have become an entirely new way of driving the food industry. This scale-up plays a fundamental role in the Agtech sector, as the demand for organic products increases every year.
In the United States alone, organic products reached more than 9 billion dollars in 2021 (5.5% more than in 2020). Moreover, organic products accounted for 12% of the country’s total market for agricultural products, reflecting a growing trend.
Foodtech industry: scale-ups that are setting the tone when it comes to preservatives and natural coatings
Several startups and scale-ups are developing solutions to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables without using chemicals. This is of utmost importance for the fruit export industry to increase the return on investment and align with consumer demands.
According to the Global Startup Heat Map, there are currently 289 startups that are setting the pace in the food sector due to their groundbreaking and sustainable solutions. However, from this select group, five scale-ups are worth highlighting for their innovations in natural coatings.
This selection of the top breakthrough companies in natural preservatives and coatings is made possible by StartUs Insight. This platform uses Big Data and artificial intelligence to analyze more than 2 million startups and scale-ups globally. We are talking about decisive innovations to adopt a sustainable approach to food production and strengthen the fruit export industry. A sector in which it is fundamental to take care of the shelf life of products to safeguard investments and, of course, to maintain good trade relations.
This Canadian startup is developing a natural mushroom-based preservative called Chiber, produced from fibers extracted from white mushrooms.
Chiber’s uses go beyond fruits and vegetables and can also be applied in sauces, beverages, and dairy products of vegetable origin, extending the lifespan of various types of food naturally.
Undoubtedly, one of the most attractive scale-ups today, given the degree of innovation applied to its star product: a coating for fruits and vegetables made from silk protein.
This solution can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables up to 2 times, preventing microbial growth, dehydration, and food oxidation.
An Israeli scale-up develops a 100% natural coating for fruits and vegetables, extending their preservation life without involving chemicals in the process.
Sufresca’s solution is plant-based and odorless, colorless, and tasteless, so it does not alter the flavor or color of the products in the task of protecting them from dehydration and fermentation. The coatings are essentially food.
It is a Swiss startup that developed all-natural elements flavor preservative encapsulation. It is a powder that allows encapsulating food flavors and releasing them once consumed—all in a sustainable way.
This is a crucial development for the food industry, as it improves product quality and optimizes processing costs, thereby increasing the profitability of companies in the sector.
Currently, it is one of the leading scale-ups with its Shel-Life® solution, a food-grade organic coating that extends the lifespan of fruits and vegetables. Shel-Life® is made with natural polymers and vegetable lipids, making it a completely organic coating that prevents dehydration of fruits and vegetables, maintaining their quality for longer in an environmentally friendly way. In other words, fresher and higher quality food, preserving the integrity and consumer health.
Today, the challenge is to reduce fruit waste, a practice with harmful consequences for the planet and which in 2019 resulted in 931 tons of wasted food —most of it (61%) coming from households—, which accounted for between 8% and 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This type of solution provides a significant reduction in losses, both for producers and intermediaries. Undoubtedly, a key solution to reduce food waste. But it also allows a reduction of more than 786 tons of CO2 emissions—a fantastic result.
Since PolyNatural’s Shel-Life® was implemented in January 2022, it was possible to avoid wasting more than 840 tons of fruit thanks to its use, demonstrating this solution’s value to reduce the carbon footprint of food production.
With Shel-Life®, it is now possible to increase the lifespan of fruits and vegetables without incorporating chemicals or petroleum derivatives, promoting a sustainable approach in the food industry.