Keeping It Fresh from Farm to Fork: FreshPaperclose
We’ve all made fruitless attempts to squeeze one more day of shelf life out of our groceries to save money and avoid wasting food. What we may not realize is that as much as an astounding 30% of the world’s food supply is lost to spoilage each year. According to current U.N. statistics, the world’s harvest actually produces enough food to feed the entire planet, but approximately 870 million people (nearly 13% of the world population) go hungry or are chronically undernourished in part due to staggeringly high spoilage losses.
Kavita Shulka took the expression “necessity is the mother of invention” to heart when she and a doctor friend were inspired by a generations-old remedy and founded Fenugreen, a start-up with a serious social conscience.
Massachusetts-based Fenugreen produces FreshPaper, a five-inch square sheet infused with edible ingredients that keeps produce fresh up to four times longer than is currently possible. FreshPaper is named after its key ingredient, fenugreek – a spice used in Asia and the Middle East. The spark of the idea behind FreshPaper came to the 13 year old Kavita while she was visiting her family in India. Kavita’s grandmother mixed a traditional medicinal brew of herbs and spices to help her young granddaughter ward off a potential infection. Kavita, amazed by the power of the natural remedy, began to explore other applications for the concoction. Back home in the U.S., it wasn’t long before she discovered that she could better preserve food by coating sheets of paper with the botanical mixture and placing them in the general vicinity of produce.
By age 17, Kavita was awarded her patent for FreshPaper and upon admission to Harvard, she was eager to get her invention out into the world through her start-up company. While learning to navigate the male-dominated, large-players-only food industry, Kavita maintained her determination to sell FreshPaper in such a way that she could give it away to those who need it most.
When Kavita and her co-founder landed a deal with Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Harvest Co-op in 2010, things took off. Now, Fenugreen has launched its "Buy a Pack, Give a Pack" initiative, which donates a package of FreshPaper for every package sold. For example, due to the large influx of donated food in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, local food banks struggled to keep their produce fresh. FreshPaper products were deployed across these areas in dire need to ensure that displaced citizens were able to receive a healthy meal. Next up, school lunch programs in the developing world are poised to benefit from FreshPaper.
How FreshPaper works:
- Take out one sheet of FreshPaper
- Place the sheet anywhere you keep produce (fruit bowl, fruit carton, bag)
- Enjoy fresh produce for 2-4 times longer
For her ingenuity and heart, we raise our glasses – or rather our plates – to Kavita as a Mother of Invention honoree and one of many distinguished guests at 2013's Women in the World Summit.
Toyota is proud to honor some of the world’s most promising female innovators and inventors who address issues like these by sponsoring the Mothers of Invention program, part of Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit. Toyota awards Mothers of Invention honorees with $50,000 grants recognizing the recipients’ creativity, drive and determination in fostering social good.