Food tech startup Farther Farms has developed a process that keeps foods that would normally need to be refrigerated or frozen fresh at room temperature — and their first product is a bag of shelf-stable French fries.
The cold chain: Microorganisms are a major cause of food spoilage, and they thrive at room temperature. By keeping some foods cold, we can slow the growth of these microbes, extending the life of the food.
To do that, the foods must be prepared, shipped, and stored along a temperature-controlled supply chain (a “cold chain”). If the cold chain is broken at any point along the way, the food may quickly become unsafe to eat.
The challenge: A cold chain can increase the cost of food production, since someone has to pay to keep the refrigeration units running, and it can also harm the environment if the electricity powering the units comes from fossil fuels (which it usually does).
CO2 for good: To address the issues surrounding the cold chain, Farther Farms developed a new pasteurization process.
By exposing food to high-pressure carbon dioxide at moderate temperatures, the process kills the microorganisms that contribute to spoilage, without compromising the quality of the food. It also deactivates the proteins that cause some foods to brown.
Shelf-stable French fries: Farther Farms claims its process can extend the life of many produce, meat, or dairy products, but for its first offering, the company created shelf-stable French fries.
A bag of these fries can sit at room temperature for up to 90 days, meaning they can be shipped and stored without a cold chain — and they’re already proving to be a hit with restaurateurs.
“When you open a bag of Farther Farms French fries, it smells like a fresh potato should, and the product retains the crispiness you expect from a hot, fresh-cut fry,” Zach Koff, COO of Shake Shack and an early investor of Farther Farms, said in a press release.
The next steps: Availability of the shelf-stable French fries is currently limited as Farther Farms works to meet demand. However, it’s already looking ahead to the next products it can break free of the cold chain.
“The sustainable, CO2-based technology we’ve developed at Farther Farms is already taking French fries farther than they’ve ever gone before — and we’re gearing up to do the same for foods across the spectrum,” co-founder and CTO Vipul Saran said.
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