Sustainable packaging extends the pomegranate season

Consumers can enjoy pomegranates for an extended season due to StePac., which has been pioneering advances in pomegranate packaging since 2003. The company introduces its latest range of sustainable packaging solutions for preserving the freshness and extending the shelf life of pomegranates and their extracted arils.

StePac has expanded its range to include new recyclable solutions, as well as packaging formats tailored to automation of both bulk and retail packing.

In spite of their tough exterior, whole fresh pomegranates host a range of challenges that arise with prolonged storage. In the absence of proper protection, the fruit can suffer significant dehydration and weight loss, causing it to shrivel. This may be accompanied by the development of skin blemishes and crown decay that eventually leaches into the fruit and impairs the quality and taste of the arils.

From orchard to table
StePac’s pomegranate packaging portfolio incorporates long storage packaging formats to meet the requirements of growers seeking glut management solutions for post-harvest bulk storage.

Pomegranate growers and packers are now able to load fresh-picked pomegranates directly at the orchard and store up to 400kg of the fruit in each specialized StePac Xtend® bin liner for periods of three months or longer, with no negative effect on the fruit. This is in addition to storage liners for weight of 10-80kg that are already widely used in many countries.

The Xtend line also includes unique carton liners that offer the ideal solution for maintaining fruit quality during the lengthy shipments to distant locations.

Leaner flowpack packaging for whole fruits
StePac developed film structures containing a unique sealing layer that facilitates leaner packaging and induces savings of up to 40 per cent in material use as well as reduced labor costs, by enabling pomegranates to be flow-packed in both bulk and retail formats.

100 percent recyclable retail packaging for arils
The company recently finalized development of fully recyclable Xgo lidding films and standing pouches to add to this category of retail-packaging products. These solutions are designed to inhibit postharvest microbial decay and extend the shelf life of extracted pomegranate arils for up to 17 days, preserving the fruit’s organoleptic properties. The lidding films are available in lean easy peel and resealable formats.

The company’s comprehensive range of lean and sustainable packaging solutions is designed to maintain pomegranate freshness throughout all stages of the supply chain. The technology is based on a unique modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) system that reduces respiration rates and ethylene production for a combined effect of slowing down ageing and ripening. It also inhibits the proliferation of pathogens.

Water vapour transmission technology enhances performance
StePac has developed a comprehensive repertoire of films with built-in abilities to regulate water-vapor transmission rates as well as provide optimal modified atmosphere conditions. The films incorporate distinct properties to cater to a range of pomegranate packaging applications.

“During prolonged storage of this fruit, it is paramount to strike the perfect balance between eliminating excess free moisture to mitigate the risk of microbial decay and to concurrently avoid excessive product dehydration,” said Gary Ward, business development manager for StePac. “Such balance depends on multiple synergistic factors, including surface area to volume ratio, produce weight, supply chain length, and shipping and storage conditions.”

“Pomegranates are in demand in every continent.” Ward enthuses. “The global reach of our technology is instrumental in addressing the challenges facing the pomegranate industry and for ensuring that both the whole fruit and the extracted arils reach the consumers— wherever they might be — in prime condition, while keeping waste to a minimum. Our holistic vision and pragmatic approach are embedded in a range of complex structures and packaging formats that deliver the extended shelf life and sustainability principles our customers seek. This approach evolved from our deep-rooted understanding and 25-year history of researching fresh produce pathology and physiology and its interaction with packaging design.”

Inspecto hooks food contamination with real-time results

FoodTech startup Inspecto Ltd. introduces a new device that detects chemical contamination in food in real-time. The portable scanner can detect contaminants at concentration levels as required by regulators, guaranteeing traceability and complete transparency.

Inspecto’s innovative device brings lab testing to the farmers, food manufactures, and retailers without time-consuming, high-cost lab testing. The Inspecto solution is fast, accurate, affordable, and saves unnecessary costs. This high-tech solution offers the food industry the ability to tailor contaminant testing to their needs and location.

“Our solution helps make food safer and cleaner, and ensures maximum transparency,” says Avner Avidan, CEO of Inspecto. “We already are engaged in pilot projects with leading food companies wanting to take product safety assurance and traceability to the next level.”

The next-gen inspection system scans the product or the crop and identifies contaminants according to specific requirements of the client. A sample is placed in a disposable capsule for detection, inserted into the device, and then activated with a simple press of a button. It scans the sample and processes it automatically within minutes, resulting in a reliable, quantified measurement of the selected contaminant. The scan can be conducted outdoors or indoors, anytime to ensure responsible sourcing. All results are stored on a cloud, recorded and analyzed in real time. This high-tech device fills the industry’s need to conduct more frequent testing at different points along the production line, with immediate results.

“Since each scan is conducted in real-time and the results are stored on the cloud, Inspecto can offer additional services to our customers that, until now, were impossible for them to implement,” explains Avidan. “For example, it enables our customers to approve or reject a shipment on the spot based on the results, and they can even use blockchain to store their information more securely.”

“We developed a portable device to ensure the safety of the product ‘from farm-to-fork’ and help food manufacture control their entire supply chains,” says Yair Moneta, VP of Business Development for Inspecto. “It can disrupt the entire way contaminants are currently being tested, reducing the risk of recalls, food waste, and potential lawsuits.”

The Inspecto device can be tuned to identify almost any chemical contaminant, in any product, liquid or solid. “The advantage of Inspecto is the ability to identify and magnify the unique spectral fingerprint of each contaminant,” added Moneta. “Moreover, you can conduct multiple scans per day without waiting for the results or paying exorbitant lab costs.”

Inspecto was established in 2016 to revolutionize the food industry by taking food contaminant testing out of the lab. Reports on the discovery of high levels of contaminants in vegetables inspired the co-founders to seek a comprehensive, fast solution for detecting contaminants.

Planting a smarter seed

Equinom, a seed tech start-up, is combining natural breeding techniques with proprietary algorithms to produce high-functioning, non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO) seeds that have a superior nutritional profile while also boosting crop yield.

The cutting-edge technology creates a next-step ecosystem directly connecting food companies to the supply chain, in turn bringing greater transparency and paving the way for more responsible sourcing of high-value plant protein.

Equinom helps to produce high-quality protein on less land with less water consumption and reduced crop waste – a crucial issue when it comes to maintaining a sustainable food supply. The firm also helps develop consistent product and affordable pricing to ensure farmers’ incomes. Equinom’s tech experts used DNA sequencing and algorithms to discover various genomic crop characteristics. Then, through careful selection, breeds for seeds that maximize a plant’s natural abilities. This technology enables production of non-GMO grains and pulses, including chickpeas, sesame, and soy, that possess substantially more protein with better functionality than varieties currently on the market. The technology also led to the discovery of rare varieties and traits that existed in nature but had been lost in years of breeding.

“The plant-based protein mega-trend has driven food companies to create more and more tasty, nutritious plant-based products,” says Gil Shalev CEO for Equinom. “However, meeting demand has presented challenges due to poor organoleptic properties inherent in many plant protein ingredients. The high investment required to develop new, profitable varieties using conventional breeding, coupled by slow throughput, poses more obstacles.”

Equinom successfully implemented a multi- tiered program:

  1. Defining the product – Equinom works with food companies to define their desired target seed attributes, including, protein load, taste, color, and nutritional score.
  2. Crossbreeding – The desired qualities are sought in singular seed varieties or developed through crossbreeding.
  3. Optimised genetic code -The target product is formulated using a proprietary algorithm that runs millions of genomic combinations in silico (via computer modeling), in order to identify seeds with the highest nutritional potential.

Equinom’s new ecosystem brings multiple benefits
Equinom’s advances in computational breeding could lead to attractive rewards for all involved along the agri-food chain. Farmers can grow more sustainable crops from seeds tailored to desired specifications, and reap the benefit of better economies-of-scale as crop yield potential is dramatically enhanced.

Likewise consumers and food companies are now able enjoy products of a higher nutritional value at competitive prices. This project has also served to connect farmers with food ingredients companies who in effect have come into closer contact with the entire supply chain through constant tracking and monitoring bringing greater transparency and traceability.

“A food company that depends on legumes of a certain composition may have to wait anywhere between five to ten years under traditional methods,” explains Itay Dana, director of marketing at Equinom. “Today, working in concert with the food company, we can design a target product with all the desired characteristics of taste, quality, and nutrient composition within two to three years.”

Equinom’s advanced economical breeding techniques exemplifies how genomics could be instrumental in overcoming some of the tremendous technical challenges that the agri-food industry has been facing in its efforts to supply the market with plant-based protein-rich products and seed oils, particularly in the face of a huge social rejection of GMO crops.

Greater plant-protein diversity in the long term
The company has expressed its long-term goal moving the agri-sector into a new sustainable, more profitable phase, and to engender more plant-protein diversity. Currently, 90% of cultivation of protein crops is concentrated on soy and wheat. The technology also reduces the anti-nutritional factors (ANF) inherent in plant proteins already at seed level. This, in turn, increases the proteins’ bioavailability, making them more nutritive and more fully absorbed in the gut.

To date, Equinom has signed a number of contracts with global leaders in the food industry. These include a multi-year contract with Sabra Dipping Company, LLC, US (a joint venture of PepsiCo, US, and Israel’s Strauss Group), as well as a commercialization agreement with Mitsui & Co. of Japan.

Recently, Roquette, France, signed a partnership with Equinom for the development and sourcing of new pea varieties with high-protein content. In addition to this new collaboration, Roquette and Equinom’s current shareholder Fortissimo Capital, Israel, will jointly invest US$4 million in the company to support its further development, bringing the company a total of US$10.5 million in investments.