Extended Shelf-Life Produce
Fresh produce is a critical part of a healthy diet. To maintain a year-round supply of consumer produce items, production must occur in warm climates, which are often thousands of miles away from the ultimate consumer. For example, the Great Lakes and Northeast U.S. regions combined account for more than 40 percent of total U.S. strawberry sales, but most production is far away.
Because of its perishable nature, transportation of fresh produce, such as tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries, from the farm to the market and then to consumers poses significant challenges. To compensate, many fresh produce varieties are bred for durability and yield rather than for nutrition and taste. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are also picked before they are fully ripe to help ensure that they survive the rigors of shipping and packaging. Fresh tomatoes are often picked green, then exposed to ethylene gas to induce red color formation before they are shipped for sale. Unfortunately, the ethylene has no effect on taste. The result of such practices is often produce that is dissatisfying to consumers because of poor taste or texture.
Despite the measures taken to bring perishable produce to market, significant waste and spoilage is a factor and expense for packers, transporters, retailers and, finally, consumers.
Using an advanced breeding tool called TILLING®, we are identifying a number of genetic variations that will lead to longer shelf life for tomatoes and other produce items. Our longer-lasting tomato varieties will be able to remain on the vine longer so that they can be picked after the natural flavor has had a chance to fully develop. These tomatoes will also be able to be picked later than conventional varieties and still survive the shipping and packing process. The new varieties will reduce waste and spillage in the production cycle, as well as offer improved flavor and nutrition to consumers.
In addition to tomatoes, Arcadia is developing the know-how to breed for improved shelf-life and eating qualities of other types of fresh produce, such as lettuce, strawberries and melons.
Extended Shelf-Life Produce Benefits Environment and Consumers
As much as 30% of the food that U.S. consumers and restaurants purchase spoils and ends up in landfills, generating methane—a potent greenhouse gas. Arcadia's Extended Shelf-Life Produce technology can minimize excessive waste and environmental damage by identifying a number of genetic variations in produce that help products last longer. Extended shelf life technology allows produce to be picked later and last longer, ensuring that it's fully ripe and still fresh when it reaches consumers.