Back in 2019 at The Spoon’s Smart Kitchen Summit, judges were so impressed by a company called StixFresh they dubbed it the winner of the event’s Startup Showcase competition. At the time, StixFresh was wholly focused on a single product, a food-safe sticker that, when affixed to a piece of produce, could protect against post-harvest bacteria, over-ripening, and premature spoilage.
Fast forward to 2021, and the company has since rebranded as Ryp Labs and expanded its capabilities for protecting crops after they are harvested. Its flagship product remains a sticker (which is still called StixFresh), but company cofounder and CEO Moody Soliman told me over the phone recently that Ryp Labs is now testing multiple technologies on different types of produce.
The company’s “core competency,” he says, isn’t simply about making stickers that prevent food waste. It’s about “develop[ing] formulations that can be applied to a variety of surfaces to combat post-harvest disease.” Hence the recent name change.
Protecting any given type of produce involves a two step process: finding the right formulation that can fight post-harvest disease and spoilage, and engineering a release vehicle for that formula.
Plants naturally emit compounds that can protect against disease and environmental hazards. What Ryp Labs essentially does is capture these compounds and use them in formulations that can then be applied to the produce to better protect it after harvest, a process that also extends the food’s shelf life. The specific application, or release vehicle, depends on the type of produce.
Stickers, for example, work well for larger pieces, such as apples, pears, avocados, and mangos. Ryp Lab’s patent-pending StixFresh product contains the aforementioned plant-produced compounds. When those compounds vaporize, they “cloak” the fruit, protecting it from bacteria and over-ripening.
Applying a sticker to a mango is one thing. Fixing them to every single berry in a case, on the other hand, would be far too unwieldy and time-consuming a process to be feasible. Smaller pieces of produce, such as grapes or berries, are better suited to other release vehicles, according to Soliman.
Berries have actually been on Ryp Labs’ radar since 2019, and partly provided the inspiration for the company to explore release vehicles beyond stickers. For berries, a sachet that emits protective vapors can simply be dropped into a crate post harvest.
For Ryp Labs, the release vehicle and specific formulation each produce type gets depends on a number of factors, from when the formulation is being applied to the conditions in which the food will travel (e.g., cold storage versus room temperature). Ryp Labs works with each individual customer to understand the issues in their specific food supply chain. The goal is to match that customer with the best formulation and release vehicle without drastically interrupting the day-to-day operation.
Ryp Labs says it is already doing pilot studies with retailers and distributors and have seen a 15 to 30 percent reduction in losses on strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, and mandarins with its sachets and stickers.
Meanwhile, the company is in the final stages of development for its StixFresh product and plans to launch it to the consumer market in early 2022, most likely in the U.S. and Europe. Other products, including sachets, may be more of a B2B play, with Ryp Labs licensing them out to food producers and distributors. Soliman did not officially confirm as much, only suggesting that licensing its tech is an option on the table for the company.
Preserving other types of food and even flowers is also a possibility. As Soliman explained, Ryp Labs is essentially building a library of formulations that could eventually protect everything from mangos to poultry to freshly cut roses. That focus on the formulation could greatly differentiate Ryp Labs in the future. So while we might be seeing StixFresh stickers in grocery stores soon, those are just the beginning of Ryp Labs’ technological journey to better protect crops and fight food waste.