Fruitect green technology preserves fresh fruits

An alternative to petroleum wax coatings that make fresh fruits last longer is now available from local startup HS InnoTech Inc. (HSII).

Manufactured by University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-based inventors, Fruitect consists of agricultural waste-derived edible coating formulations that delay the ripening of mangoes and bananas.

With its Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS), the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) supported HSII to start the operation of its pilot plant in UPLB in Laguna.

Awarded in 2022, the SEARCA grant funded the fabrication of support structures and test runs to produce up to 300 liters of Fruitect.

The pilot plant will produce the green delay-ripening formulation in liquid form, making it convenient for direct application onto whole fresh fruits.

Moreover, it will also be available as a wettable powder for easier packaging, distribution and longer shelf life. HSII is now exploring ways to cut production costs.

Dr. Veronica Sabularse and Dr. Hidelisa Hernandez, the inventors of Fruitect, said their technology, which is derived from peels and leaves, is a solution to two common agricultural problems—how to extend postharvest life and use agricultural waste.

Carabao mangoes stored at room temperature (28 degrees Celsius to 31ºC) turn ripe and sweet five to six days after harvesting, but when mangoes are coated with Fruitect, the fruits ripen after 10 or more days.

At cooler storage temperatures, the Fruitect-coated fruits ripen after 20 days.

Meanwhile, lakatan bananas stored at room temperature turn ripe and ready to eat six or more days after harvesting, while bananas coated with Fruitect start to ripen after 20 days.

"By preserving the freshness of fruits sold to consumers, the technology promises better earnings and improved livelihood of our local farmers," the inventors explained.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio noted the impact of the Fruitect technology, emphasizing that the "nature-based coating technology significantly contributes to reducing food wastage and preserving fruit exports."

"We applaud the inventors who bring their technologies and innovation to the field and transform the agricultural industry," Gregorio said.

The Department of Science and Technology's Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development provided initial funding for the development of Fruitect, which aimed to leverage nanotechnology in the creation of innovative materials intended for commercial use.

HSII has announced that it is ready to sell its formulation for carabao mangoes. Fruitect for lakatan banana will be for sale soon.