Subtle silk protein wash that preserves food garners US$4m investment
16 Aug 2019 --- US agricultural technology firm Cambridge Crops has raised US$4 million in seed funding for a food preservation solution made from silk. Using just salt and water, Cambridge Crops uses natural silk proteins to create a protective layer around food. The technology is applied to slow the exchange of gases that cause decay with an edible film with the aim to “keep food fresher for longer – from strawberries to salmon and everything in between,” shares the company. This pioneering innovation in silk could be another small win in the ongoing battle against global food waste with a “natural” appeal for the consumer.
The Engine, the venture capital firm launched by MIT in 2016 to invest in early-stage Tough Tech companies headed up the fundraising. The round included participation from Refactor Capital, Closed Loop Ventures, Bluestein and Associates, SOSV and Supply Chain Ventures.
Cambridge Crops says it will use the funding to complete US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory milestones, invest in production scale-up, and continue developing meaningful commercial partnerships in the food and agriculture industry.
How it works
Cambridge Crops addresses three ways that food spoils with its proprietary technology: oxidation, dehydration and microbial growth. The company notes that “once the solution is applied to the surface of a food item, it forms an imperceivable protective layer that prevents oxidation, improves water prevention and slows microbial growth. The solution can be easily implemented at a wash or coating station in the supply chain and has proven efficacy across a broad range of food products; from whole produce and cut produce to meat and fish and everything in between. The technology enables food producers, food processors and retailers to extend shelf lives, reach new markets and reduce waste.”
A new solution to food waste
Food waste continues to be an increasingly social and political problem on a global scale. Over one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted. In the US alone, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.
Last October, the US government announced a new food waste agreement aimed at improving communication across federal agencies attempting to better educate Americans on the importance of reducing food loss and waste. As with everywhere else, the staggering amount of wasted food in the US has far-reaching impacts on resource conservation and food security while costing businesses and consumers money.
Initiatives in the EU and the UK have also set ambitious goals to reduce food waste.
Consumers demand “natural”
Consumers are increasingly demanding more “natural” foods which poses a hurdle to the fight against food waste. Suppliers are increasingly looking for natural ways of preserving foods which consumers will feel good about purchasing. Consumers are simply looking for food “as it should be,” Emma Cahill, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager in Food Protection and Fermentation at Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute (KHNI), tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
If extra ingredients are required for food safety, color, texture, flavor, nutritional value or freshness, they should be ones that “harness the power of nature” and have minimal processes or packaging, Cahill adds. One clear advantage of an edible, tasteless film is maintaining the food’s natural look.
The subtle silk protein wash is a promising new technology to aid in reducing food waste, while still providing a beautiful and natural preservation solution for the consumer. The start-up is led by Forbes 30 under 30, Adam Behrens. The earliest iterations of the breakthrough technology were born out of Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto’s silk lab at Tufts University and co-invented with MIT Professor Benedetto Marelli. Omenetto and Marelli remain on the Cambridge Crops board of advisors.
Edited by Missy Green
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.
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