Retaining the freshness of fruits and vegetables has been a struggle for centuries with tiny accomplishments in this regard. Although science has provided cold storage solutions to maintain the freshness of fruits and vegetables, the process that has been widely accepted and used for decades helps in retaining fruits and vegetables’ freshness for up to a week when stored between – 2 to – 5-degree temperatures, its a short-lived process resulting in a huge amount of losses to farmers as well as business vendors.
“It’s all about blemish-free produce,” says Jay Johnson, who ships fresh fruit and vegetables from North Carolina and central Florida.
“What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.”
Food waste is often described as a “farm-to-fork” problem. Produce is lost in fields, warehouses, packaging, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants, and fridges. By one government tally, about 60m tonnes of produce worth about $160 billion is wasted by retailers and consumers every year. About one-third of food is wasted globally: 1.6 billion tonnes of produce a year, with a value of about $1 trillion. It looks like all that is about to change with the introduction of ‘Black Box’ Technology.
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‘Black Box’ Technology
While efforts are being made to reduce wastage of perishables via cold chain management, an Indian company has introduced ‘Black Box’ technology, which ensures the preservation of fresh fruits and vegetables for 1000 days (about 2.7 years).
In science, computing, and engineering, a Black Box technology is a device, process, or system whose inputs and outputs (and the relationships between them) are known. Still, the whole internal structure or working is (1) not well, or at all, understood, (2) not necessary to be understood for the job or purpose at hand, or (3) not supposed to be known because of its confidential nature.
Entrepreneurs Sahil Peerzada and Sachin Adhikari of Viztar Agritech have tied up with Spain-based Nice Fruits to offer new technology in cold storage plants in the Indian subcontinent. Their company will be partners, in technology as well as equity, in these cold storage plants.
Black Box is a unique technology developed by scientists in Spain. It can be easily set up in any factory or plant. Regular cold storage utilizes nitrogen. However, in the Black Box system, there will be neither nitrogen nor any preservative. The stored commodities will have their natural content and nutrition value intact for 1,000 days, Peerzada told IANS.
Initial Ventures and Storage
Although very little is known and disclosed about this technology, it claims to keep – anything from fruits and vegetables to meat – fresh for 1000 days using Black Box. The technology had been tried and tested worldwide and patented in the US.
The company has tied up with Hindustan LNG to set up two such storage plants in Hyderabad, with the first two plants to become operational in the next seven months (by March 2018). Subsequently, similar plants will be set up for mangoes in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
The company has claimed that new technology would increase the farmer’s return by four-fold. Initially, this storage capacity will be 30 tonnes per day, which will be increased to 1000 tonnes per day later.
‘Black Box’ Benefits
Farmers are forced to throw their produce on the road after prices go down. They cannot store it due to a lack of proper preservation and storage facilities. With our technology, farmers will not be required to go to markets and sell their produce at a modest price. They can come to us and get four times the price, Peerzada said.
The cold storage factories will store agriculture produce from farmers and export them “on their own terms.”
“It will be a win-win situation for both farmers and traders. Also, it will help the country in getting a foreign exchange,” he added.
This is the first-ever technology venture initiated that promises to maintain the product’s freshness for about 2.7 years without losing its natural content in terms of color, texture and coarse appearance, and nutritional value. Let’s wait to see how effective this technology will prove to shape the agricultural commodity markets.