Solution: Ryp Labs produces fresh produce preservation solutions using a bio-inhibitor sticker.
Nisa Mirza of Cleantech Group sat down with Moody Soliman, CEO and Co-Founder at Ryp Labs, to discuss what led to them becoming a Cleantech 50 to Watch company.
Cleantech Group: Can you share with us how the company came to be?
Moody Soliman: Before Ryp Labs, I spent about ten years in medical devices, eventually got my MBA, and transitioned into the biotech world. I had the opportunity to work with technologies that can positively impact people’s lives firsthand.
My co-founder had a very similar experience. By 2016, we started to consult with early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs because what we had developed over our careers was an ability and competency to take products from concept to product development to commercialization in the high-tech industry.
What many people don’t realize is that our technology has humble beginnings. We met a young inventor from Malaysia who had come up with the concept of applying a sticker to fruits that could extend their shelf life. So, we started looking into the problem a little bit. We needed to better understand how to bring technology like this to market. The deeper we investigated, the more we realized that this was an enormous problem we had on our hands.
We’re all aware of food waste and how big of a challenge it is, but when you start looking at the numbers, it’s just shocking. Frankly, it’s more than simply an economic issue. It falls into the environmental and sociopolitical nexus, too, as 50% or more of the food we produce goes to waste. Consequently, it’s fair to say that for every pear or every mango you’re eating, there’s one going in the trash, and that’s not to mention that the number of resources required to grow food is enormous.
Food waste is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. Therefore, we concluded that to have a meaningful impact on that problem, you not only have to come up with a solution that’s easy to use, but it has to be applicable anywhere along the supply chain and economical for our consumers. This is how we ended up in Belgium, collaborating with KU Leuven to house our lab and build an R&D team. Additionally, we have our product development and manufacturing facility in the United States.
Cleantech Group: So how does the technology work?
Moody Soliman: At the core of our technology is a formulation that can be applied to almost any surface, including stickers, which is a bioactive state formulation that can prevent food from rotting prematurely. It’s as simple as that. The sticker will release the formulation, extending the shelf life from anywhere from 50 to 100%, so in some cases, it actually doubles the shelf life of fruits.
Although it sounds miraculous, the easiest way to explain the science behind it is by turning back to nature. We studied how plants protect themselves. As plants have evolved over millennia, they have been developing secondary metabolites to protect themselves. For example, let’s say you’re walking by a lavender plant, and you can smell the flower from a distance. That’s a secondary metabolite in action. The compound that a plant releases has a variety of attributes, including a defense mechanism, which is necessary because it is rooted in the ground.
In our lab, we identified the specific compounds that can tackle certain premature rotting causes in fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables. Next, we engineered a controlled relief matrix that encapsulates or traps these compounds and extends their release rate over time, which then gives us a formulation that’s natural, safe, and can be applied to virtually any surface.
Cleantech Group: How long can the sticker stay on the product?
Moody Soliman: It depends on the use case. Once it’s taken out of the packaging that we have it in, it starts releasing right away. So how long it lasts really depends on what type of application it’s being used for. For example, if it’s a sticker applied to a single fruit that’s in an open environment, that would be a couple of days. Conversely, if it’s in a box in a refrigerated environment stored somewhere, we’ve seen it last as long as 67-plus days.
This is where material science and chemical engineering come into play because we can manipulate our matrices to slow-release or fast-release the product based on the application and what makes the most sense.
Cleantech Group: Does this work on food items beyond fruits and vegetables?
Moody Soliman: It does! However, we’ve learned many times from many other startups that if you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing nothing. Although this application can and will be applied to other food groups, including meat, dairy, seafood, grains, etc., because the mode of action is the same, at the end of the day, our solution is to prevent the proliferation of fungi and bacteria spread.
Fruits and vegetables are our first options because they have the highest wastage rates. We’ve found over 50% in some cases of losses on certain fruits, like strawberries in the U.S., where 52% are lost. After we’ve established success there, we’ve also opened the door to alternative protein companies that need to combat short shelf-life expectancy.
Cleantech Group: What stage are you currently in with Ryp Labs?
Moody Soliman: We’ve been in pilot study mode for a couple of years, optimizing and developing the solution. We’re on the cusp of doing our soft launch and we’ve already started working with some of the largest household names in the industry like Walmart, Aldi, and Carrefour. On the distributor side, we’re also in contact with Westphalia and BerryWorld, amongst others. In fact, we have over 170 potential customers in our pipeline.
Cleantech Group: What is your projected business model?
Moody Soliman: We are not in the business of making stickers or labels. We take those stickers off the shelf, food grade. We simply apply our formulation to it and sell it to distributors and retailers via volume-based pricing in bulk. As Ryp Lab grows, we can bring down the price point. These stickers have already been pre-approved in Europe as a food additive/food flavoring (although I don’t recommend that you eat them). It has already passed through the regulatory hoops in North and Central America, and the Middle East, and now we are eyeing East Asia.
For more information, visit the Ryp Labs website.