From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Innovation almost never fails due to a lack of creativity: it’s almost always because of a lack of discipline.
One of the main limits is represented by the extreme focus on products: successful innovators are the ones that use many types of innovation at the same time and are always looking at the broader picture. This means impacting different parts of the food chain as well as working on different markers or industries.
This also happens in the maker space, as innovation is the keystone for both making and impacting.
Today, I want to talk about Innovating Configurations. It is the kind of innovation located upstream in the food chain. This relates to production processes, industry networks, and, consequently, product performances. I also want to talk about Architectural Innovation as well, which is the process of gathering different lessons, skills, and overall technologies from several industries and applying them together into a new one.
Mike Annunziata received his undergraduate degree from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and is now pursuing his MBA. Vipul Saran is a true food lover who is fascinated by potatoes. They met when they were both studying at Cornell University. Together they master food science, institutional relations, industry technical knowledge and general management.
Saran recalled encountering many issues in his potato exporting business in India. He moved to Cornell University because he had a problem to solve. As food scientist from a third-generation potato farmer-family, he started exporting their produces in the Middle-East: a promising market with potential high margins. While doing that, he suddenly realized that temperature had a massive impact on his ability to sell. Potatoes were going bad quickly during warmer months. Attempts to fix the problem only increased refrigeration costs across stocking and transportation periods and still led to excessive food waste.
Once at Cornell University, Saran found some of the essential elements of innovation (a supporting ecosystem, a buddy and a bunch of existing technologies). Saran and Annunziata were able to merge these elements with the ones that Saran already had (a specific problem to solve and a specific industry to start with).
“We are not reinventing the wheel,” both Saran and Annunziata said, “We are just looking at it from a different angle so it easier to make it better.”
Annunziata and Saran came up with a technique to preserve the shelf life of produces, leveraging temperature, and pressure to prevent oxidation. Their patented food processing technology extends the shelf-life of fresh-cut produce by up to 60 days without the use of preservatives, additives, or chemicals. Natural Cuts’ innovative technique eliminates the need for refrigeration or freezing, which reduces energy usage in the food supply chain while mitigating food waste and produce spoilage.
The question now is: what’s next?
Their broad vision is to apply this technology across the fresh food industry. All processes should be augmented with extra techniques depending on products’ features, that’s why they are prototyping and testing in the specific niche they both know and perform well in. Working with potatoes (especially with french fries), Natural Cuts is able to extend shelf life 60 days; avoid refrigeration during production and distribution; avoid chemicals or preservatives for preservation; have potatoes that absorb 40% less oil while they fry (which means a healthier product for the consumer and a cheaper processing for restaurants).