Fruit Profits develops technology for banana shelf life extension
Banana invention can stop millions going to waste
Andrew Ellson, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
March 26 2018, 12:01am, The Times. London UK
A new filter system could help to slow the ripening of bananas during transit
A British company has invented technology that could save up to 250 million bananas from going to waste every year.
Independent trials suggest the filter system slows the ripening process enough to double the green life of bananas to an average of about 70 days. Supermarkets require bananas to remain green during shipment and distribution, meaning any that have ripened when they arrive cannot be sold.
Bananas are the world’s favourite fruit with more than 100 billion being exported every year, according to the United Nations. The UK alone imports 5 billion a year, with the average Briton eating the equivalent of three a week or 12kg a year. Most are shipped from the Caribbean and Latin America. The anti-waste charity Wrap says consumers throw away 67,000 tonnes of perfectly edible bananas every year with many more being wasted in transit.
The trials in Costa Rica, conducted by Manuel Madrid, a world leading expert on bananas, found the filters successfully absorb ethylene — the ripening hormone — from the bananas’ environment. Dr Madrid concluded the system was more efficient and environmentally friendly than methods that are now being used.
Banana growers and exporters say retailers put immense pressure on them to ensure their produce does not ripen in transit and huge wastage is incurred as a result.
Ecuador is the biggest exporter, and banana shipments to places such as China, Russia or the Middle East can take weeks and will generate the greatest levels of avoidable waste.
Simon Lee, the founder of It’s Fresh!, the company that created the filter, said: “If a banana does not meet specification for its colour it will get rejected, a bit like ugly fruits.
“Our technology is allowing growers to ship their bananas longer distances to markets they are having difficulty reaching now.
“If you want to ship to China or Russia the extra time it takes creates problems with as much
as 20 per cent arriving out of specification. These bananas have to dumped.
“Our product is a huge opportunity for the banana supply chain to massively reduce waste and produce better quality bananas.”
Food waste releases methane when it decomposes, a gas far more likely to cause global warming than carbon dioxide.
At present, the filter is a breathable membrane that can be placed in banana crates but the company is working on developing it into a self-adhesive label that can also be used more widely with other types of fruit.
Mr Lee said: “Almost 40 per cent of produce harvested does not reach our plate. But it is not just the physical product that is thrown away — we also waste everything that has gone into making it, from the water to the energy to the labour of the workers. So if you consider that as well, the impact of our product could be enormous. We think this technology has huge
potential to reduce global food waste and help the environment.”