Hazel Technologies Inc., a USDA-funded technology company delivering new solutions for fresh produce to extend shelf-life, increase sales, and fight food waste, announces new USDA-funding for a packaging technology which protects the quality of potatoes. The technology may also have applications for some types of onions.
The technology, dubbed Hazel Root, is a packaging insert, placed in a bulk box or bin of potatoes or onions during storage following harvest, which prevents the sprouting process from starting prematurely. According to BestFoodFacts.org, potatoes sprout because the high starch content begins to convert to sugar prematurely, causing a sprout to grow on the potato.
According to the USDA, sprouting exceeding 10% of the total surface area of the potato qualifies a potato as “damaged” and not only reduces the commercial value of a potato but also contributes to food waste, as the potato is less likely to be consumed. Furthermore, consumers frequently confuse sprouting with decay and throw away produce that has grown sprouts.
The Hazel Root™ technology will work by slowly releasing an active ingredient which slows the growth of sprouts using natural biological processes. Hazel Root™ will be usable on both conventional and organic potatoes. The USDA grant funding was made possible through the SBIR (Small Business Innovation and Research) program.
This fund helps support new technologies that may substantially benefit the future of US agriculture, and requires a USDA technical review as well as recommendations from stakeholders in the produce industry.
“Potatoes are the 3rd most consumed crop in the world, after rice and wheat. Over 1 billion people worldwide regularly consume potatoes,” said Adam Preslar, CTO & Co-Founder of Hazel Technologies, “In developing solutions for the largest food categories in the world, we can make the greatest strides toward reducing global food waste at the largest scale.”
Hazel Technologies, which has traditionally focused on fresh fruit items, was founded in 2015 and works with over 150 of the largest growers, packers, and retailers of fresh produce in the world. This funding is the fourth USDA grant Hazel has received through the USDA SBIR program since 2016, bringing total USDA funding to $900,000.
“SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to enhance crop production in both conventional and organic systems by creating and commercializing engineering technologies that enhance system efficiency and profitability” commented Kelly Sprute, Editor at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA (NIFA), in an email release.