sustainability tech

Vipul Saran, Indian American co-founder of Farther Farms. (cals.cornell.edu photo)

Using technology developed at Cornell University, an Indian American-led food tech startup has developed a solution to produce shelf-stable foods that don’t need freezing or refrigeration.

As an undergraduate in India, and the third generation in his family to work in agriculture, Vipul Saran had started a new venture: exporting potatoes from western Uttar Pradesh to the Middle East, a Cornell report said.

But the high cost of cold storage had become “a pinching point.”

To ship $2,000 worth of potatoes to Dubai in a refrigerated container in the summer, he’d pay $3,000 – losing $1,000 in profits before the product even got to the buyer. But to ship the potatoes in the winter – when he could get away without refrigeration – cost just $96, the Cornell report said.

The solution that emerged is Farther Farms, a food tech startup co-founded by Saran and Mike Annunziata, with technology developed at Cornell. Its innovative sterilization technology produces shelf-stable foods that don’t need freezing or refrigeration.

Their first product is the world’s first commercially available shelf-stable French fry – a major addition to an industry dominated by frozen fries first invented in the 1940s, the university report said.

By sidestepping cold storage, the company aims to open new markets in regions that lack refrigeration while reducing supply chain costs and carbon emissions.

Saran, chief technology officer, who had studied food science in India, and Annunziata launched Farther Farms in 2017, while enrolled in eLab, Cornell’s student startup accelerator, with the goal of developing next-generation sustainable food processing technologies, the report said.

At Cornell, along with his adviser Syed Rizvi, professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Saran developed and patented the technology, which Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing then licensed to Farther Farms, the report added. 

Farther Farms worked closely with CTL and in 2018 joined Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a business accelerator located in Ithaca, New York, and supported by Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College, the report said.

French fries are just the beginning. The technology can apply to any food products made of fruits, vegetables, dairy or meats, from solids to semi-solids and liquids.

Since eLab, Annunziata and Saran have received a Phase I research grant from the National Science Foundation and constructed a pilot production plant in Rochester, New York. The startup has recently begun distributing their flagship product, which diners can try at Luna Inspired Street Food in Ithaca and at The Hideaway and Radio Social in Rochester, it said.

And Endico Potatoes, a large redistributor of potato products in the New York City Metro area, carries Farther Farms French fries.

Farther Farms continues to scale up its business. The startup raised $12 million in its first significant round of venture capital financing, led by a group of strategic investors including Endico Potatoes; Richard Porter, former president of Lamb Weston, a frozen french-fry manufacturer; and others in the food and agriculture arena, the report added.

Farther Farms has grown from three to 25 full-time employees in two years and are hiring for several highly skilled positions, it said.

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