Extending the life of fruit and vegetables


Many plant-based foods spoil before they can be eaten. A Swiss start-up is therefore aiming to fight mould on fruit and vegetables with a biodegradable molecule that can extend their shelf life.

Anyone who opens the fridge with a ravenous appetite only to find that the strawberries they bought the day before have started to go mouldy is not only disappointed, but also creating food waste. According to the FAO, almost a third of all food ends up in the bin every year - enough to feed 1.26 billion hungry people.

Fighting fungal infection

The Swiss start-up AgroSustain is working to make sure that this happens less often in the future. Born out of a molecular biology PhD thesis at the University of Lausanne, co-founder Olga Dubey launched the foodtech company with her husband in 2018, developing a degradable molecule to combat fungal infection. With six patents in the bag and more than 10 employees, AgroSustain aims to be a one-stop solution for managing fungal pressure along the entire value chain. The problem with fungal infection is that it starts during production and continues to have a major impact during post-harvest when it becomes visible.

Molecule from plants

Over the past few years, the AgroSustain team has been investigating the type of mould that grows on fruits and vegetables such as lemons, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, apples, tomatoes and carrots, and how to protect them from this. With the results of her PhD, Dubey and her team were able to improve the effectiveness of a weed with small white flowers belonging to the family of cruciferous plants. They identified two molecules from the weed that, in different combinations, work against many types of fungi. Although biodegradable, these molecules are able to keep pathogens and pests at bay.

Our vision is to extend crop freshness through natural and organic solutions.

Olga Dubey, CEO AgroSustain

Preserving the flavour

Depending on the type of fruit, the powdered product can be applied either in water or with a water spray. This does not affect the ripening process or the flavour, while significantly reducing crop loss. According to the company, fruit and vegetables stay fresh for two to four days longer when treated immediately after harvest.

Successful commercial launch

Thanks to a collaborative project with Swiss retailer Migros (read more about it) and support from Agroscope, the Swiss center of excellence for agricultural research, as well as various research funds, the first coating application for fruit was launched in 2022. There are also other applications for flowers and vegetables, for which certification by the relevant authorities is expected soon. One of the leading fruit importers in Switzerland, Giovanelli, is now one of Agrosustain’s commercial partners implementing the coating process for fruit from further afield.

Website of AgroSustain