By Amanda Zheng
Sometimes we have to throw away a rotten apple or brown banana, but most food waste happens on the production level and is not even seen by consumers. Over 1/3 of produce never reaches the consumer, creating over $1 trillion worth of food waste. Since fruit harvesting season is only a couple weeks, the produce is often kept in cold storage for months, where it slowly ripens and is then sold. However, during this process it is almost impossible to tell exactly when the fruit will be at peak freshness and when it needs to be sold. As a result, billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables will go to waste before they even hit the supermarket shelves. If only there was a way for the fruit to tell us when it needs to be sold…
Introducing Strella, a biotechnology startup that is providing a translator between fruit and packers. It does this by tracking the methane levels in the room, a gas that is released as fruit ripens. Its sensors are placed in the cold storage rooms and use the Internet of Things to provide real time monitoring that can alert supply chain managers when fruit is reaching peak freshness and needs to be sold.
The environmental potential of Strella is astonishing. By eliminating food waste, less food needs to be produced and hence global emissions can decrease by 7%, the global freshwater supply use can be conserved by 25%, and 40% less food will be lost before it is consumed.
Not to mention, all of this was created by two college students at the University of Pennsylvania, Malika Shukurova and Katherine Sizov. Since its inception, it has been rapidly growing and has even received $3.3 million in seed funding and has begun implementing the system with distribution centers in Washington and has monitored nearly 150 million pieces of fruit, showing their model works. The future of food waste may lie in the sensor that can listen to fruit.