It’s one of the biggest challenges of modern agriculture: Keeping freshly picked produce viable long enough to survive transportation from the fields to the supermarket shelf.
Extending the freshness factor of fruits and vegetables has been a critical element of the food and consumer economy for centuries, but especially in our modern times when food is shipped all over the world, often thousands of miles from where it was grown.
A shipment of fresh-picked blueberries in South America can take 30 days to reach markets in the United States. Keeping blueberries fresh that long is a huge undertaking.
In addition to refrigeration, food companies use a variety of methods, from covering produce with wax coatings, to gassing them with certain chemicals, or irradiating to maintain freshness.
But now a California company, Apeel Sciences, thinks it has a better solution – it’s a new kind of high-tech coating made from natural plant materials.
The process involves extracting all liquids from the plant material to produce tiny pellets. Molecules from these pellets are then applied to the surface of fruits. The microscopic pellet coating controls the rate at which natural water and gases move in and out of fruit.
The result is a remarkable slow-down of the rate of decay.
Apeel Sciences researchers say the new coating can preserve fresh produce up to five times longer than any other method currently in use.
Better yet, this new plant-derived coating may make it possible for food producers to cut down on food preservatives, other coating methods and various gaseous chemical applications that add unwanted ingredients to fresh produce.
Apeel’s new coating method is still in the design phase, but hopes are high that this new food preservation technology may do nothing less than revolutionize food storage and transportation industry.