In preparation for the culinary competition, the scientist invented a new way of long-term storage of products – using silk. After which he created a startup that won several startup competitions, then he invented a new technology and patented it. The “silk” method allows us to extend the storage time of products up to 200%. This is reported by Scientific Reports.
Benedetto Marelli, an assistant professor of civil and environmental design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has found a new use for silk. In preparation for a culinary competition in the laboratory, the only requirement of which was to add silk to each dish, Marelli accidentally left a strawberry soaked in silk on a bench. When he returned almost a week later, it turned out that the strawberries he had coated were still edible. Now the scientist considers his unintentional discovery as an opportunity to explore the ability of silk to solve the problem of food waste.
Marelli, based on MIT, has created a startup that seeks to replicate and expand the initial discovery, using silk as the main ingredient for developing products that extend the shelf life of all types of perishable products. The company’s technology has a significant impact on extending the shelf life of whole and sliced products, meat, fish and other food products.
Now one-third of the world’s food supplies are spent annually, but more than 10% of the world’s population suffers from hunger. Food waste has serious social, economic and medical consequences that affect both developed and developing countries. Although many technologies have appeared to extend the longevity of fresh food, they often use genetic modifications, environmentally harmful packaging materials, or are expensive to implement.
“So far, most of the innovations in food and agricultural technology are based on genetic engineering, plant engineering, mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence, and computer science. There are many opportunities for innovation using materials such as nanomaterials and biomaterials. “Silk is a way to solve many problems facing the food industry without changing the inherent properties of the products themselves”.Benedetto Marelli, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Silk’s strengths stem from the natural simplicity of the material, honed by millennia of evolutionary biology. Cambridge Crops uses a patented and efficient process using only water and salt to isolate and convert natural protein from silk. This makes Cambridge Crops silk coatings easy to integrate into existing food processing lines without the need for expensive new equipment or modifications. After application to the surface of the food, the silk coating forms a tasteless, odorless, and otherwise invisible barrier that slows down the natural mechanisms of food decomposition. Depending on the product, the shelf life may increase by up to 200%. This not only reduces the amount of food waste but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions during transportation.