MIT Scientist Accidentally Discovers Environmentally Friendly Food Packaging

MIT Scientist Accidentally Discovers Environmentally Friendly Food Packaging

Sometimes the best solutions to complex problems are simply stumbled upon. 

That is definitely the case with Cambridge Crops’ innovative silk-based food covering.

Benedetto Marelli, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, was taking part in a lab-wide cooking competition during his postdoc program at Tufts.

 Because, you know, that’s what scientists do.

The one requirement of the cooking competition was that each dish had to incorporate silk. 

After the contest, Marelli accidentally left a silk-dipped strawberry on his bench.

“I came back almost one week later, and the strawberries that were coated were still edible. The ones that were not coated with silk were completely spoiled. That opened up a new world for me,” he said

Inspired by his accidental discovery, Marelli partnered with several Boston-based scientists to form Cambridge Crops. 

The company is expanding on Marelli’s initial discovery by using silk to develop products that extend the shelf life of perishable foods including fish, meat, produce, and more.

Roughly ⅓ of all the food produced around the world is wasted every year

Despite that statistic, over 10% of the global population faces extreme hunger

This is the problem that Cambridge Crops looks to take on. 

Silk is a naturally strong and simple resource. Cambridge Crops efficiently and sustainably uses only water and salt to isolate and reshape the naturally occurring protein in the silk into a food coating material. 

Once applied, the silk coating forms a tasteless and odorless barrier that is basically imperceptible. 

Best of all, it’s completely safe to consume. 

Silk wrapped products can see up to a 200 percent increase in shelf life. 

Not only does that enable less food waste, but it also reduces the pressure on refrigerated supply chains, allowing transportation companies to use fewer fossil fuels.

Not to mention, it greatly reduces the need for pesky plastic packaging. 

Co-founder Adam Behrens says that “We think that our technology is one that can actually enable the elimination of plastic food packaging.”