According to the United Nations, around 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, including 40 percent of all fruit. The reason for all that fruit waste? It’s turned down by purchasers for being unattractive, or it isn’t sold and used before it expires. Swedish start up FoPo is attempting to curb some of this waste by going back to basics—about 1000 years back—and salvaging near-expired fruit by drying it and turning it into a versatile, long-lasting powder.
FoPo is the brainchild of a group of international students at Lund University, who are studying at the school’s Food Innovation and Product Design program. The students were disturbed by the scale of both food waste and hunger, so they began to explore different techniques for drying produce right before it expires. The method they developed gives the fruit a shelf life of two years, rather than two weeks, and can be used in anything from baked goods to smoothies and ice cream. The powder is currently available as banana, raspberry and mango and it retains between 30 and 80 percent of the fruits’ original nutritional value.
To take “dumpster diving to the next level” the students developed a partnership with a group in the Philippines. According to FoPo, the Filipino teammates saw a “window of opportunity in the country to help people in need, especially during relief operations after calamities strike.” They noted that the powder could provide a nutritionally sound addition to emergency food relief packs.
Their project has taken off remarkably; a Kickstarter campaign raised kr219,786 (around $25,800), and FoPo has received both interest and backing from groups in the Philippines and in the U.S. Over two dozen supermarkets in the Philippines, along with 10 local produce vendors, have agreed to donate near expired fruit to FoPo, while three universities have offered to assist in development. The government has even agreed to assist in piloting the project.
Elsewhere, the group has received support from Ben & Jerry’s, placed as a runner up in the Food for Thought challenge and is a finalist in the MassChallenge. Pilot testing of FoPo will begin in the Philippines this month, and if all goes well, the students hope to start partnering with NGOs in the next year.