The engineering students who founded Lima-based start-up Bio Natural Solutions spent three years fine-tuning the formula of Life Cover.
A colorless, odorless liquid, Life Cover is sprayed on fruit and vegetables for a few seconds at the post-harvest stage and, depending on the fruit, can extend shelf-life by around 250%.
For other fruit, such as avocados, it can retain their freshness without the use of active controlled atmospheres, and one liter of spray is enough for around 500 to 600 kg of fruit, the company said.
The active components work by decreasing the respiration rate and ethylene production (the enzyme responsible for ripening) of the fruit, thus slowing down the ripening process.
'Natural compounds' derived from fruit & vegetables
With a patent on the formulation and extraction process still pending, chief technical officer (CTO) Miguel Malnati could not reveal details of the active components but said they were extracted from “compounds of nature” such as fruit and vegetables, and were authorized by CODEX and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Life Cover has no limits,” Malnati told FoodNavigator-Latam. “It can be used by any country that has agro-industrial production of fresh products. It has been applied to fresh - fruits such as mango, avocado, orange, lemon and also berries. In a next stage, we hope to start industrial testing on vegetables like tomatoes,” he said.
The product has successfully completed tests at a lab scale, been approved by Peru’s regulatory body, the National Service for Agrarian Health (SENASA), and it is currently being trialed by various agri-food companies in Peru.
But the start-up already has its sights on international markets, aiming to secure “key partners to expand our operations globally”, Malnati said, and is seeking approval from the relevant authorities in other Latin American countries.
“Life Cover was born as a start-up called Bio Natural Cover, which started when we were engineering students. We saw the problem of the short shelf life of the fruits that we took every day to the university.
“We took advantage of the fact that we had laboratories and some free time, so we decided to start with basic formulations that improve the freshness. After several years of improvement, we continue to improve the product to what it is today.”
“The biggest challenge so far has been […] definitely, surviving every day with few resources. [That’s] what makes us proud. Fortunately, there are entities that support us, with seed capital or universities like Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) that gave us their laboratories.”
The Peruvian start-up has already attracted the attention of some big international players.
Last year, it scooped up first prize in the Eco-Challenge’s environmental award, a competition organized by the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) and PepsiCo.
PepsiCo praised Bio Natural Solutions for its concept, which presented “an innovative and sustainable alternative” for the agro-industrial sector thanks to its potential to reduce food waste.
Last year, the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering awarded it for its impact on society.
While food science innovation in Latin America is on the rise, Malnati said access to capital continues to be a problem.
“The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Peru and South America is growing, especially projects with technologies that take longer to go to market. However, we still see a large gap for the lack of investors and professionals who accompany you to make fewer mistakes along the way.”