香蕉不再变成褐色,牛油果也不再变得软乎乎? 食品技术可以防止你的产品不再变质
Brown bananas and squishy avocados no more? Food tech could keep your produce from going bad
2019-12-23 10:34

Imagine bananas that never go bad. To Aidan Mouat, CEO of Chicago-based Hazel Technologies, it's not so far-fetched.

想象一下香蕉永远不会变质。 对于芝加哥食品企业Hazel Technologies的首席执行官艾丹·穆阿特(Aidan Mouat)来说,这并非遥不可及。

His company makes a product that extends the shelf life of all sorts of produce — avocados, cherries, pears, broccoli — by slowing the chemical process that causes decay. Some of the world's largest growers are using it to send their produce longer distances or reduce how much retailers throw away, and Mouat says a consumer version could be next.

他的公司生产一种通过减缓引起腐烂的化学反应过程的产品,以延长所有种类包括牛油果、樱桃、梨、西兰花等农产品的保质期。 现在世界上一些最大的种植户正在利用这种产品将他们的货物运输到更远的地区,或者减少零售商丢弃的数量。穆阿特表示下一步将会生产消费者使用的版本。

“I envision, in the next 18 months or so, literally selling a banana box to consumers,” Mouat said from Hazel's growing office space at University Technology Park, a startup innovation hub on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus. “You keep it on your counter, put a (Hazel) sachet in there once a month, and you have bananas that last forever.”

“我预计在未来18个月左右的时间里,将一种香蕉盒子卖给消费者,” 穆阿特在大学科技园区里Hazel公司不断扩大的办公区域中说道,这个科技园也是伊利诺伊理工学院校创业创新中心, “你把这个盒子放在柜子上,然后每个月放一个(Hazel生产的)香包进去,之后你的香蕉就可以永远保存下去。”

Hazel Technologies is part of a wave of innovation seeking to slow spoilage of produce and other perishables, which experts say is a key weapon in the battle against massive food waste in the U.S.

Hazel Technologies是以减少农产品和其他易腐烂物变质为目标的创新浪潮中的一部分。专家们说,这个创新浪潮 是美国应对大规模食物浪费的关键武器。

As much as 40 percent of food produced annually in the U.S., and nearly half of produce, goes uneaten, according to government estimates. While the waste happens throughout the supply chain, the vast majority of the $218 billion worth of uneaten food annually gets tossed at home or at grocery stores and restaurants, according to ReFED, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit that seeks solutions to reduce food waste.


The average American family throws away 25 percent of groceries purchased, costing a family of four an estimated $1,600 annually, ReFED said. U.S. supermarkets lose $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, uneaten food is the No. 1 component of landfills and squanders the water and energy used to grow and transport it.

ReFED表示,每个美国家庭平均扔掉的食物占他们购买总量的25%,而一个四口之家每年估计花费1600美元在购买食品上。 根据美国农业部的数据,美国的超市每年因未能售出的水果和蔬菜而损失150亿美元。 同时,未被食用的食物是垃圾填埋场的第一大组成部分,这也造成了用于食物生长和运输的水和能源的浪费。

Routing unused food to charities can help keep it out of the garbage, but solutions to prevent waste at the source, such as by extending its shelf life, “have some of the greatest economic value per ton and net environmental benefit,” said Alexandra Coari, director of capital and innovation at ReFED.

将未被食用的食物送给慈善机构确实可以减少他们的浪费,但从源头上控制浪费的解决方法(比如延长其保质期)“才会创造每吨最大的经济价值以及净环境效益,” ReFED资本与创新部总监亚历山德拉·科里亚(Alexandra Coari)说道。 

Spoilage prevention packaging has the potential to divert 72,000 tons of waste and 330,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, plus save 44 billion gallons of water a year, she said.


Technology that extends shelf life has been around for a long time, but there has recently been a “huge uptick” in innovations that expand the options, helping to drive the $185 million in venture capital invested in combating food waste last year, Coari said.


Rethinking existing tech


Hazel, founded in 2015 by Northwestern University graduate students, has raised $18 million so far, including nearly $1 million in grants from the USDA. It has 100 clients in 12 countries in North and South America.


The company makes small sachets, the size of a salt or pepper packet included with a takeout order, that can be thrown into a box of produce to shut down the food's response to ethylene, a chemical naturally emitted by many fruits and vegetables that triggers the loss of firmness, texture and color. The sachets continuously emit a small amount of an ethylene inhibitor, changing the atmosphere in the storage box but not the food itself.


While ethylene management technology isn't new, Hazel's sachets are gaining fans because they are easy to use, whether in okra fields in Honduras or avocado packing houses in the U.S., Mouat said. The company also is working on anti-microbial reactions and will soon bring to market anti-microbial liners for packages of berries, to ward off the white fuzz.


How much Hazel can extend the shelf life depends on the type of food. For example, tests show an unripened pear gets an extra seven to 10 days after being treated with a Hazel sachet, plus an extra three to four days once ripe, Mouat said. Testing on packaged chicken, beef, fish and pork suggests the sell-by date could be pushed back by four to six days, he said.


Mission Produce, the largest grower, packer and shipper of Hass avocados in the world, found that ripe avocados, which normally would have to be sold in two to five days once in stores, lasted seven to 10 days when treated with Hazel's product, said Patrick Cortes, senior director of business development at California-based Mission. Once they'd achieved maximum ripeness, some treated avocados kept at room temperature were still good when they were sliced two weeks later, he said.

世界上最大的哈斯鳄梨生产商、包装商以及运输商Mission Produce,发现成熟的牛油果运至商店后需要在2至5天内销售出去,而经过了Hazel香包处理过的牛油果则可以延长至7到10天。位于加利福尼亚州的Mission公司市场推广部高级总监帕特里克·科尔特斯(Patrick Cortes)谈到,达到最大的成熟度的牛油果如果是经过处理过的,被切片后在常温下2周以后仍然可以安全食用。

Mission, which has developed a branded product with Hazel called AvoLast, has completed one retail trial and is about to launch two more, as well as a food service trial, Cortes said. So far he prefers it to other shelf life extension treatments the company has tested because it is easy to use.

科尔特斯说,Mission公司已经与Hazel公司合作开发了一种名为AvoLast的品牌产品,并且该产品已经完成了一次零售实验,并将再进行两次实验以及一次餐饮服务试验。 相比公司已经测试过的其它延长保质期的处理方式目前为止,科尔特斯因为易于使用更喜欢AvoLast。

Mission is investing in the technology to help retain the freshness of avocados that travel long cross-ocean journeys and help U.S. retailers save money by throwing fewer avocados away, Cortes said. On average U.S. retailers waste 5 percent of avocados, which also has an environmental impact, he said.


“We took a retailer we sell to and said, if we can reduce their shrink (wasted produce) by 2 percent it would be the equivalent of powering 26 homes for a year,” Cortes said. “It just makes perfect sense to do the right thing.”

科尔特斯说:“我们跟购买我们产品的零售商说,如果我们将他们 (浪费的产品)减少2%,这相当于一年为26座房屋供电的量,” “做正确的事意义重大。”

Attracting capital


It also makes business sense, and investors are starting to take notice, said Coari at ReFED. California-based Apeel Sciences, which has created an all-natural coating that gives produce a spoilage-resistant skin, last year landed a $70 million funding round that included Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent venture capital firm that has backed some of the biggest tech companies.

ReFED公司的科里亚(Coari)表示,这项技术同样具有商业意义,并且已经引起了投资者的注意。 加利福尼亚州的Apeel Sciences公司,研发出一种可以在农产品表皮形成一层抗腐败的全天然涂层物质。去年,这家公司获得了7000万美元的融资,其中包括著名的风险投资公司Andreessen Horowitz。Andreessen Horowitz公司此前已经投资了一些最大的科技公司 。

Other movers in the industry include Massachusetts-based Cambridge Crops, which makes an edible protective coating from natural silk proteins and recently got $4 million in seed funding from MIT's venture fund; and U.K.-based It's Fresh, a maker of ethylene filters that last year sold a 15 percent stake in the company to AgroFresh, a longtime maker of freshness products, for $10 million.

该行业的其他推动者还包括位于马萨诸塞州的Cambridge Crops公司和英国的It's Fresh公司。Cambridge Crops生产的是一种可食用的保护涂层物质,最近它从麻省理工学院的风险基金会获得了400万美元的种子资金。而乙烯过滤器制造商It's Fresh将其15%的股份以1000万美元的价格卖给了一家长期从事生产新鲜产品的公司——AgroFresh。

Yet adoption by the industry has a long way to go. Suppliers pay for the technology but the benefit is felt downstream at retail, complicating the business model, Coari said.


It is unclear if shoppers will be willing to pay more for longer-lasting produce or will respond to branding of products long considered commodities, she said. It's also unclear how much more it might cost them. Prices vary so much because of weather or other production issues that consumers may barely notice, Hazel's Mouat said.


In addition, it can be complicated and expensive to introduce shelf life extension technologies into the supply chain if it involves installing equipment or training seasonal workers.


That's where Hazel has a leg up. Growers and suppliers that have tried numerous alternatives say they have been attracted to the flexibility and user-friendliness of Hazel's technology.


“It has to be simple to use or may not be worth doing,” said David Ortega, director of packing operations at Orchard View Cherries in Oregon.

“保鲜技术必须操作简单,否则不值得做,”美国俄勒冈州Orchard View Cherries公司樱桃包装运营部总监大卫·奥尔特加(David Ortega)说道。

Orchard View conducted a small trial with Hazel two years ago and this year has more than doubled its use, primarily for cherries embarking on ocean trips to Asia that can take up to 23 days.

Orchard View于两年前与Hazel合作进行了一次小型试验,并且今年已将实验用量增加了一倍以上,主要用于运输至亚洲的长达23天海洋航程的樱桃。

It found cherries treated at the end of the packaging process were firmer than untreated cherries after 20 days, and had fewer indentations and greener stems. Consumers often reject produce that doesn't look perfect, even if it is still perfectly good, so aesthetics matter.


“It was definitely noticeable. The fruit looked fresher, more appetizing,” Ortega said. “It allows us to feel more confident in where we can ship our product.”

“这肯定是显而易见的。 更新鲜的水果看起来会更加好吃更容易引起人的食欲。”奥尔特说道, “这项技术使我们对往哪里运送我们的产品更加充满信心。”

That could mean exploring new markets, such as India and Africa, which is a 35-day transit.


Mouat declined to disclose Hazel's revenues, but said sales have grown threefold over the past year. The company, which is not yet profitable, started 2019 with 14 people and will more than double to 30 employees by the end of the year.


The company has grand ambitions. India, for example, grows more mangos than anywhere in the world but exports only 10 percent, leaving many to go to waste, Mouat said. Using Hazel's sachets to extend shelf life in countries that lack stable supply chain infrastructure could allow them to sell their fruit to new markets without investments in pricey equipment, he said.

Hazel这家公司雄心勃勃。 穆阿特说,以印度为例,印度生产的芒果比世界任何地方都多,但其出口量仅为10%,更多的芒果是被浪费掉的。在缺乏稳定供应链基础设施的国家中使用Hazel的香包来延长产品保质期可以使这些国家无需投资昂贵的设备就能将其水果卖到新的市场。

Mouat also hopes to create a consumer-focused sachet that people can throw into the veggie crisper in the fridge, or the aforementioned banana box.



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