Growing Ideas: Invisible seal keeps fruit fresh for longer

A biodegradable coating slows fruit spoilage, reducing waste

Liquidseal is a biodegradable coating that extends the life of hard-skinned fruit such as mangoes, papayas and avocados. That means easily perishable produce reaches its final destination intact and waste through spoilage is reduced.

A version of this article was previously posted on on January 23, 2018.

Four neighbors in the Netherlands invented Liquidseal in 2005. Their innovation was originally applied to lily bulb packaging, allowing 25 percent more bulbs to be transported in the same shipment. The company then launched a formula for roses, which prevents the cut flowers from becoming moldy during transportation. Their latest application protects fruit during shipping.

Liquidseal’s innovative ‘packaging’ for tropical fruit earned the company a spot among the top ten Nutrition start-ups at the Accenture Innovation Awards next month. This week they will share their work at the Innovation Expo 2018, in Rotterdam, where visitors can marvel at the most revolutionary products and ideas of the day.

But... what exactly is Liquidseal?

Director Victor Monster explained to us how Liquidseal protects fruit and fights food loss along the supply chain.

What is Liquidseal?

Liquidseal is a liquid that creates a thin film around the product. It regulates the amount of oxygen and evaporation, thereby increasing the product’s shelf life. If necessary, slow-release chemicals can be added, which actually reduce the overall amount of chemicals needed. In the case of lily bulbs, for example, using Liquidseal means that 80 percent fewer chemicals are required than without it.

“A thin coating around fruit increases its shelf life”

- Victor Monster, Liquidseal

What problem does it solve?

Six out of ten mangoes from Thailand do not reach their final destination, because they are spoiled by mold during shipping. That means that we are wasting 60 percent of fertile soil.

Thanks to Liquidseal, the loss of mangoes during transport from Thailand can be reduced to 20 percent. When we tested our product in Brazil, wastage was reduced from 35 to just 5 percent.

“6 in 10 mangoes from Thailand do not reach their destination”

- Victor Monster, Liquidseal

What is your greatest challenge?

Our products can soon be used around the world. We meet all legislative and regulatory requirements and are currently in the commercial pilot phase. The challenge we now face is to convince the entire food chain – from grower, wholesaler and retailer to consumer – of the benefits of our product.

Businesses all along the supply chain could make significant savings. An average loss of 35 percent means companies import 135 percent of their needs. Liquidseal reduces that loss percentage, meaning less produce needs to be imported.

In addition, our product makes it possible to transport produce by sea instead of by air freight. That leads to a cost saving of $2 per kilo of fruit – and it’s more environmentally friendly.

Liquidseal’s lab in Leiden, the Netherlands

What’s next for Liquidseal?

We are permitted to use our product for fruit where the peel is not consumed. Incidentally, eating the peel is not harmful, but we are fully compliant with the applicable legislation and regulations. The next goal is to develop Liquidseal for soft fruits, so that strawberries, for example, can be kept for longer.

What tip would you give other businesses?

Compliance with all the required legislation and regulations is time-consuming. For example, if a meeting in Brussels is scheduled in over three months, there is no way of bringing it forward. And even when Europe has given its approval, it still means having to meet the local legislation and regulations of each separate member state. The art of entrepreneurship is ensuring a sound financial base to bridge this period.

From quite early on we had set our sights on fruit, but we decided to market our product for flowers first and to make money to develop it further. Besides, we had the benefit of having other business activities, which meant we were not financially dependent on Liquidseal.

You can watch a time-lapse video demonstrating Liquidseal's effect on papayas here.

This interview is part of the series Growing Ideas, in which we take a look at the future of the Food & Agri sector and offer a platform to the innovative businesses in this sector.