Sometimes big, new innovations come in a very small package
USDA is using small business innovation research grants to fund new technologies to reduce food waste.
The CDC estimates that 1-in-6 Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year, but a new technology from EnSolution could help reduce contamination and food waste, according to CEO Dr. Alex Athey.
“What we are really looking for is using the higher power of ozone to both clean things and improve food safety, which ends up providing benefits as well for longevity. So, there should be less food waste as the food has a longer shelf life on the way to market and into consumer homes,” Dr. Athey states.
After harvest, fresh produce heads to processing and sanitation to remove dirt and bacteria. The current FDA approved industry standard is a chlorine-rinse.
“Today’s processes largely use chemicals to clean our food and we would like to move away from that,” Dr. Athey explains. “We know that things happen with the chemicals on the food and also with the water that’s used to clean the food, that has to be dealt with afterwards-- there are downstream effects from that.”
Instead of chlorine, EnSolution has a high-tech but natural option: “What we are looking at is using ozone, which is a natural substance which is made out of oxygen... We package that ozone into a tiny bubble; the bubbles are so small that they don’t float, and they stay in the solution-- these are called nano-bubbles. They are a very curious invention and creation that we are exploiting to provide sanitizing capability without using chemicals.”
The process could also help open export opportunities with trade partners like the European Union, who have phytosanitary restrictions for how meat and produce are cleaned.
“We are going to learn more about how things are processed, and consumers are going to demand more choices and there should be benefits for everyone along the value chain-- exporters and hopefully potential exporters as well,” he adds.
EnSolution is currently working on pilot projects in packing plants and with growers across rural America to further develop their technology.