One of the best parts about summer (in my opinion) is that it is stone fruit season, and I always look forward to consuming an abundance of nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums, and peaches. After the vibrant, juicy fruit flesh is devoured, the rock-hard pit is leftover. Pits are not obviously edible and seem like something you would just toss in the garbage or compost. However, a start-up called Kern Tec, based in Austria, is developing methods to transform the discarded pits from fruit to create a variety of consumer packaged good products.
This week I spoke on the phone with Sebastion Jeschko, one of the co-founders of Kern Tec, who said that the inspiration to start the company came when he and his co-founders spoke with local farmers about what part of the stone fruit industry most often went to waste. After processing fruit, there was no obvious use for the pits, which molded quickly and were considered waste. The challenging part of using pits is extracting the seed from the hard outer hull. While the company can’t yet disclose many details on the process, Kern Tec has figured out how to separate these seeds from the outer hull. Once extracted, they can be used as regular nuts, as stone fruit seeds contain a high amount of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and vitamin E.
At the moment, the company has two products available on the market in Europe. One is a chocolate nougat spread made from a base of upcycled apricot seeds. The other is various oils made from the seeds of plum, apricot, and cherries, which according to Jeschko, has a sweet, fruity taste. Kern Tec is currently in the process of developing non-dairy milk and yogurt alternatives from pits, and will also eventually create a protein powder.
With more and more mouths to feed on a daily basis, it doesn’t make sense to toss things like agricultural side streams that have the potential to be transformed into food. To that end, plenty of other companies are now developing uses for these side streams. The Supplant Company upcycles post-harvest byproducts from wheat, rice, and corn crops to create a new type of sugar. Coffee cherries, the vibrant red fruit that surrounds a coffee bean, is normally tossed, but The Coffee Cherry Co. upcycles this product to create a powder for baked goods and teas. In addition to upcycling agricultural side streams, there are a plethora of companies using food that would otherwise go to waste to create new products.
Kern Tec is currently in the three-month-long incubator through ProVeg International, and which is set to finish in the next few weeks. The startup is currently talking with investors, and after the program, will be closing its first funding round.