Liquidseal: novel bio-coating to prevent food waste
Liquidseal have developed an innovative bio-coating technology to extend the shelf-life of perishable products. They were recently awarded €450K from Eureka Eurostars for the Banana-Seal project (total budget €1M), and €350K from Eureka Globalstars for the EggsTEND project (total budget €950K). Both projects will run for 3 years. Catalyze provided a funding application service and provide ongoing support to Liquidseal through our project management service. Read our interview with Victor Monster, Managing Director at Liquidseal.
Liquidseal’s bio-coating technology
The food-chain has significant sustainability issues, leading to 50% of fruits and vegetables being wasted each year due to spoilage, amounting to costs of €2.5 trillion. Considering the need to feed a growing population, it is imperative that we minimize this excessive food waste. Liquidseal are addressing this issue with their innovative bio-coating technology, a biodegradable coating for fruits. Once applied it forms a protective layer reducing water loss, physical stress and contamination.
Effectively, it is a chemical-free packaging that achieves shelf-life extension of perishable products. This presents a promising route for more effective preservation of fresh fruit on the journey from farm to consumer. However, Liquidseal face many challenges in the development of their bio-coatings. Through an iterative R&D process they must define an effective formulation that ensures ideal oxygen permeability, while also developing an efficient coating technique that covers the entire surface of the fruit.
With two new research & development projects, Banana-Seal (Eurostars) and EggsTEND (Globalstars), Liquidseal aim to bring to market two new formulations of their innovative bio-coating technology, formulated specifically for bananas and eggs.
Liquidseal: early beginnings in the flower bulb industry
Liquidseal was founded in 2005, by Victor Monster along with three co-founders. Their initial target area was the flower bulb industry, where the Netherlands sits as the biggest producer worldwide. This provided Liquidseal relatively easy market access from day one. They later expanded to develop new formulations for fruit in 2016; first targeting lily bulbs, then rose cuttings. Victor reflects on the early days at Liquidseal:
“Over the first two years we did a lot of trials with different lily bulb sizes, different bulbs, and we saw a very nice effect – that if you store a product for a certain period, it loses energy and that has to do with a metabolism of this product.
“By coating these products, we can control the metabolism. We saw that after storage, there was more energy in the product itself.”
Expanding to reduce food wastage
After conducting many trials to develop different formulations of their bio-coating for the lily bulb and rose cutting industries, Liquidseal expanded into the food industry. This was a move they had considered since their inception.
Victor says, “There was always an idea to start in the food industry. So the money we made with selling products for the flower bulb and rose industries, we invested in R&D to create formulations for food.
“By designing our formulation to extend shelf life for the sake of food itself we help to reduce the food wastage. We now have five different formulations at-market, for avocados, citrus, melon, mango and papaya. Each has the same chemical components, but at different ratios.”
Developing new formulations, funded by Eurostars and Globalstars
The new Banana-Seal project aims to address one of the largest single wasted foods, bananas, with ~500 million wasted every year. Existing post-harvest treatments for bananas (plastic bags, cooling) are wasteful and unsustainable, with apparent limitations given the huge number that still goes to waste.
Together with consortium partners, Turunçgil (Turkey) and Agromall (Turkey), Banana-Seal aims to introduce a sustainable bio-coating platform, tailored to the metabolism of bananas. Once developed, this will extend the shelf life of the fruit through reducing water loss, physical stress and contamination. In addition, the project will develop an applicator for the bio-coating, designed specifically for bananas.
Victor explains the challenge, “In addition to designing a new formulation for bananas we also need to design an applicator to apply the product onto the bananas. The problem we are facing is that a bunch of bananas has a tight structure – all very close together, but our bio-coating needs to have very good coverage to be effective. We are addressing this challenge together with our Turkish partners.”
The Globalstars project EggsTEND, in collaboration with Venky’s (India), also aims to develop a bio-coating delivering similar results, but specifically formulated for eggs. Over 100 billion eggs are produced in India annually, but 10% reach consumers in bad condition – spoiled, cracked or contaminated. Together, these projects present significant potential to reduce wastage of eggs and bananas worldwide.
Preparing successful applications
Receiving funding for both projects is a major boost to Liquidseal’s ambitions to bring new formulations of their bio-coating to market. Victor describes the support Liquidseal received from Catalyze in writing the successful application:
“It helped that Catalyze is familiar with these programs and that they knew what the reviewer wanted to read. Also, working with templates makes life much easier. That was the reason why we said okay, we need to do this together with a partner like Catalyze, because we did not know these programs very well.”
Liquidseal’s successes in Eurostars and Globalstars came just weeks apart in the final funding rounds of 2020. We asked Victor how they celebrated the news that both projects had been awarded the respective €1M and €950K subsidies.
Victor says, “Well, we are Dutch, so we are very realistic! We just drank a beer, because we knew that now is when the work begins. We needed to immediately focus on getting the project running and run it smoothly without any problems. So we will drink champagne after the project is completed!”
Ongoing project progress with Catalyze project management support
Both projects are now well underway and will continue until 2023. Victor describes the current status:
“We are in the beginning of both these projects and have started designing our formulations in our lab, that’s phase one. Next year we will get more close contact with our partners and travel to Turkey and India. Hopefully everybody is vaccinated and COVID is out of our world! But we can currently say that we are on track in this project.”
Effective project management is an essential element for successful execution of the project. Victor summarises the value in Catalyze’s project management services:
“I think it’s important to have a partner that helps you run your project. On a daily basis, everybody gets new information and new input from all over the world. So it’s good to have Catalyze’s project management support to help keep the project focussed and on track. When time passes and you need to look back and ask ‘Okay, what have we done?’ it makes it easier to have our project manager controlling the process.
Victor finishes, “Also, if things changing during the project, we need to know how to address that towards the EU and working with a project manager makes this easier.”
Learn more about Liquidseal, visit their website