FruitBriteA pod to keep fruit freshNUvention: Energy program directed by clinical associate engineering professor Mark Werwath.
More than 40 percent of produce grown on agricultural lands in the United States will not be consumed. In impoverished regions across the globe such as sub-Saharan Africa, that number sits even higher. With a focus on distributors, the produce supply chain middlemen who experience constant inventory shrinkage, the Hazel Technologies team looked to minimize the food spoilage rate.
Fruits and vegetables are some of the agriculture’s most resource-intensive crops, so when fruits and vegetables are wasted, both the resources used to cultivate the produce and the produce itself is wasted. A solution to help alleviate this problem is clearly a worthwhile pursuit., FruitBrite, Co-founder
FruitBrite is a biodegradable pod that utilizes smart biotechnology to reduce spoilage and maintain freshness in a wide variety of different fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. The product’s core innovation is the revolutionary slow and uniform release of ethylene-inhibiting materials that have been commonplace in the food industry for more than 25 years.
Until now, ethylene-inhibition treatments have been fundamentally limited in terms of how long they can protect produce by inhibiting ethylene, the aging hormone in most fruits and vegetables. The FruitBrite technology slowly releases ethylene-inhibiting material into the air surrounding produce over a two-week time period, a vast improvement from current technologies that last but a few days.
In June 2015, following positive feedback from NUvention: Energy as well as a seed-grant funding from the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Northwestern, the Hazel Technologies team closed a small angel investment round to develop its minimum viable product. By November 2015, the founders held their first working product and began initial testing in early 2016. The FruitBrite team has since earned a $100,000 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, a $500,000 prize from the Clean Energy Challenge, and additional funding from organizations such as VentureWell and the Northwestern University Venture Challenge.
The team’s core idea has remained steady throughout as has its focus on distributors. There have, however, been various iterations of the pod design, including ongoing ideation of reusable pods to further minimize environmental impact.
Hazel Technologies is currently working with five companies on live pilot testing, including a large grocery chain and a regional floral distributor.
Long term, the Hazel Technologies team hopes to establish a “platform technology” that can be integrated into larger products, such as distribution trucks in the commercial space or refrigerators in the consumer space. The group also hopes its user-friendly, affordable technology can help impoverished areas across the world reduce produce spoilage and, subsequently, waste and hunger.
Updated May 2016
Co-foundersPatrick Flynn (engineering), Amy Garber (Pritzker School of Law), Yuvaraj Kundasi (Master of Engineering Management), Aidan Mouat (chemistry), Adam Preslar (chemistry)