- Chicago-based startup Hazel Technologies closed a $13 million Series B round of funding for its shelf life-extending sachets. It was led by Pangea Ventures and S2G Ventures.
- The company’s sachets work by inhibiting ethylene, the ripening agent in produce. They can be dropped into bulk crates of fruit and vegetables, and the company says they can triple the length of time produce stays fresh. More than 100 pilot trials have been conducted.
- With this funding, Hazel’s total capital raised sits at $17.8 million. According to AgFunder News, the company is researching similar applications for meat products, and plans to launch them during the next 12 months.
Food waste is a big problem. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates one-third of all food produced globally is lost where it is grown, or wasted in retail, manufacturing and consumption.
Hazel is looking to stem the problem at its origin. Unlike other products on the market, Hazel's packets can simply be tossed into bulk crates. The influx of capital from this funding round will be used to help Hazel look at other packaging solutions, according to AgFunder News. This could include antimicrobial packaging for smaller fruits including berries and grapes, as well as compounds to slow the spoilage of meat products.
Although no company has developed a solution to the food waste problem that’s quite like Hazel's, other products on the market use different methods to work toward the same goal. StixFresh created a natural formulation of secondary metabolites — compounds that protect plants exposed to stresses like temperature, humidity and light fluctuations — and applied them to the non-sticky side of a sticker. On individual pieces of fruit, the stickers have shown promise. In addition to a longer shelf life, the company says the stickers promote sweetness, moisture retention and firmness.
Other solutions include protective edible coatings like those from Apeel Sciences, which reduce ripening speed. BiOWiSH Technologies tapped the power of microorganisms to increase produce longevity with a liquid wash. Bluapple created an apple-shaped plastic container that can be placed inside a refrigerator to help absorb the ethylene gases that fruits and vegetables produce. And other startups offering tech-driven shelf-life enhancements include AgroFresh, BluWrap and Citrosol.
With a significant amount of competition in the market, Hazel has its work cut out for it. One advantage of the company's solution is that its small packet is a very simple addition to the packing process. Unlike washes, peels and stickers, one packet serves to save a crate of produce with minimal effort and little change to packaging materials and processes along the supply chain. This easy application will also be unlikely to increase costs significantly for manufacturers.
Considering there are so many diverse produce products, as well as many different ways to package and transport them, there cannot be a single best solution for all of them to extend shelf life and reduce food waste. In 2018 alone, venture capital investors doled out $125 million for food waste reduction solutions, according to ReFED. It will be no surprise to see other new solutions appear on the market as people look to trim the food waste statistics from 40% to 50% of fruits and vegetables produced annually to somewhere closer to zero.