Roughly a third of all the food produced around the world goes to waste. But now an innovator has come up with a way of making fruit last longer by simply applying a sticker.
It sounds too good to be true, but the inventor of StixFresh says that the sticker acts in the same way as the natural protections used by plants themselves. Simply sticking one to a piece of fruit can extend its shelf life by up to two weeks, says Zhafri Zainudin.
Going to waste
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended food supply chains, leaving fruit and vegetables to rot because they cannot reach buyers in time.
It’s not a new problem, either. Even before the pandemic, 52% of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States went to waste, part of a $161 billion mountain of wasted food. More than 50 million Americans currently experience food insecurity, up by 13 million since 2018.
Zainudin says his StixFresh stickers will tackle hunger and improve health by giving more time to get fruit to consumers before it goes bad.
So how does it work?
The stickers, which are the size of a 50 cent piece, use 100% natural ingredients which replicate the antimicrobial compounds that plants use to protect themselves against post-harvest diseases.
Once the sticker is attached to the fruit, the chemicals spread out to create a protective layer covering the surface of the fruit and slowing the ripening process.
Zainudin came up with the idea after a friend asked for help to reduce the amount of stock on his fruit stall he was losing to spoilage.
After hundreds of experiments he arrived at a formula that would protect fruit. But how to apply it? It turned out that the answer was right in front of him on his friend’s fruit stall in a community near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Most of the fruit already carried a sticker describing the variety, so Zainudin reasoned that using another sticker to protect the fruit would work with existing processing and avoid the need for extra investment by growers and retailers.
The stickers work best on apples, avocados, citrus fruits and mangoes. Zainudin’s team are now working on new versions that will enhance the shelf life of berries and vegetables as well.
By reducing food waste they hope to help farmers, distributors, retailers and consumers save money, while at the same time protecting the environment.
Zainudin and StixFresh have been selected to join the The Circulars Accelerator Cohort 2021, an initiative to help circular economy entrepreneurs scale their innovations.
The accelerator is a collaboration with UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s innovation crowdsourcing platform, and is led by professional services company Accenture in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab, and Schneider Electric.
This article was first published in the World Economic forum