Scientists create food powder from waste, increasing shelf life from two weeks to two years
Kent Ngo, Vita Jarolimkova, Gerald Perry Marin, came up with the idea at the Thought for Food Challenge in Lisbon, Portugal, winning a runner up prize of $5,000 earlier this year.
How to feed the world by 2050
The competition addresses the need to come up with innovative ideas to tackle global challenges.
Ngo said FoPo tackles the problem of food security and how to feed the world by 2050, by buying old stock from grocery stores, processing the produce into powder, and then reselling the final product back on the market.
The powder comes in various flavours including banana, mango, raspberry and pineapple. It contains between 30% to 80% of its nutritional value and can be used in smoothies or as a topping for baked goods.
“FoPo is the only freeze drying facility aiming to work solely with produce that would otherwise be discarded and turning it into powder with numerous uses,” said Ngo.
“Our mission is to feed 9 billion people by saving the 40% from the food we produce from being wasted through freeze drying and the pulverizing method, turning ugly, unsellable, and almost expired food from retailers and producers into food powder, increasing its shelf life from around two weeks to two years.”
Students Marin and Jarolimkova are studying the Erasmus Mundus Masters program Food Innovation and Product Design, at Lund University and Ngo studies a masters of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design.
Strict regulations on the expiration date
The trio said with retailers, importers, and producers throwing away a lot of food due to strict regulations on the expiration date, it makes more business sense for them to sell their fresh produce having only one day left to FoPo.
The company will buy/ receive donations of second class, expiring, damaged or unsellable fresh produce and transport it to the processing facility, where it will be turned into freeze-dried powder.
Here, it will use a second-hand freeze-dryer and pulverizer to turn food into powder. It will be placed in nearby warehouse facilities, and Fopo will then sell the powder back to retailers with an extended shelf life.
“Currently studying Masters in Food Innovation and Product Design, we are very much aware of the problems about food waste,” said Jarolimkova.
“The paradox is that the world is producing a lot of food that is more than enough to feed the population, but people are still hungry. This made us rethink how we can make use of the food we have, and how to save it through modern technology.
“Food preservation was done in the past, from fermentation, to Asian spices, and now using refrigerators. The next step to prolonging shelf life, is breaking down the food further. And that is how FoPo was born.”
Food companies can buy FoPo as an ingredient to be incorporated into a product or for use in traditional and innovative cooking methods. The students see the powder as a source of nutrition derived from natural sources without additives, as compared to processed food.
Thought for Food Challenge in Lisbon
“Nowadays, freeze dried fruits and vegetables are produced as premium snacks, but we aim to use low priced produce and modern technology which reduces the processing price per kg to produce an affordable range of nutritional food powders,” added Jarolimkova.
“Removing water and storing the produce as powder will allow for maximum utilization of space during transport and storage as well as significantly prolonged shelf life. Furthermore, we envision the powder to be used in culinary areas – as a fruit and vegetable replacement in humanitarian aids, food for space missions, molecular gastronomy, and also as a cartridge for 3D printing.”
FoPo was a joint award winner at the Thought for Food Challenge in Lisbon, alongside Team Aahar from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Team Ahaar developed an automated refrigeration truck to reduce post-harvest waste.
First place went to team Innovision from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh who won $10,000 for creating a solar-powered, micro climate chamber to increase the shelf life of produce that is portable and affordable for use in developing countries.