Food can be preserved without refrigeration for months longer than it would usually spoil, without the use of chemical preservatives, thanks to a food-tech company in upstate New York.

It has the potential to transform agriculture in developing countries where refrigerated shipping containers and trains are scarce or costly, as well as to reduce the millions of tonnes of food waste produced worldwide.

Have you ever wondered why, given how much more nutritious fruits and vegetables are, we don’t devote more cropland to them instead of grain? The cause is food spoilage, which accounts for $14 billion in wasted food in India alone.

A clock starts ticking as soon as a harvest is reaped, counting down until oxygen damage and bacteria make a product inedible. Farther Farms‘ CO2 pasteurisation technology is an easy remedy that can extend the shelf life of packaged foods in room temperature beyond 90 days.

To survive trips between processing facilities and supermarkets, their first demonstration, French fries, will usually need to be frozen. They can’t be pasteurised like other foods because the steam will turn them to mush if heated quickly enough.

Instead, Farther Farms places them in special packaging and fills it with supercritical CO2, which prevents oxidation and bacteria suffocation.

“The whole goal was, basically, how can we look into new, innovative food processing technologies that can allow us to create value-added food products from these perishable food products, which avoids the need and the dependency as much as possible on refrigeration and freezing?” Saran told Adele Peters at Fast Company.

Vipul Saran, who grew up in a farming family in India, founded Farther Farms while a graduate student at Cornell University. His understanding of the costs and difficulties of transporting agricultural products, in his case potatoes, from farms to towns and cities before they spoiled influenced the technology’s growth.

Rather than putting apples or potatoes in a plastic bag, the Farther Farms technology is suitable for value-added food items, which require packaging of some sort but can gain farmers more money, such as turning tomatoes into salsa.

Farther Farms will allow them to bypass the frozen supply chain and ship them at any temperature, enabling farmers and food producers of all types to access the largest number of markets possible.

“If you can begin producing internationally and create markets for value-added food products that don’t currently exist, you’re going to do the most to help farmers,” says Saran.

We throw out 30 million tonnes of food in the United States per year, according to Peters, and if you’ve ever forgotten about a bag of freezer-burned food in the fridge, you can see how this technology will be perfect for family meal planning.

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