How seaweed extracts prolong food shelf life and decrease food waste.

Food waste has a larger impact on the environment than most would expect. Consider all the steps involved in getting food to your plate. Food needs to be grown, processed, packaged, transported, and marketed before it’s finally sold. At each step food can be wasted and every time this happens all of the resources that went into each of those steps are wasted too. Think of the water used to grow the crop. Packaging and transporting food take water, too. When you waste food, all that water also goes to waste. This can be equivalent to 45 trillion gallons (170 trillion litres) of water per year. But food waste also contributes heavily to the emission of greenhouse gases. Food that is thrown out often goes to landfills. As it rots in the landfill, it produces a greenhouse gas called methane.

Food can be wasted long before we are thinking of throwing out food on our plate or in our fridge. As we continue to experience a domino effect of logistical issues around the world, we are now seeing complications around fruit exports, affecting not only the marketing of fruit, but creating food waste issues before the product even hits shelves. Issues with customs processes or shipping delays due to redirected ships that are diverted from the war in Ukraine are all piling up. Above average travel time is affecting the condition of the fruit, with recent estimates of 10% of fruit being completely lost with time of arrival at destination markets being extended from 14 to 35 days.

The antioxidant effects of seaweed extracts

n recent years, the use of seaweed extracts in crop production has grown due to its technological and ecological benefits. These products are currently used in integrated crop programs for their beneficial effects such as improved plant tolerance to environmental stressors, as well as improved crop growth and development. But a little-known fact is the impact these products have on protecting fruit and vegetables against oxidation and thus prolonging their shelf life.Chart showing food degradation after 15 days from untreated food and treated food with Acadian seaweed extract applications

Research findings have shown crops demonstrated higher antioxidant activity when Acadian Plant Health’s Ascophyllum nodosum product was applied, with the cellular membrane protected and the integrity of the membrane structure improved. “Ultimately, stimulation of antioxidants can result in longer shelf life for fruits and vegetables by destroying oxidizing compounds before they are allowed to proliferate within the plant system to induce cell membrane breakdown. Our research found the shelf life of seaweed treated spinach, lettuce, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and nectarines to be significantly longer than control groups when measured as fruit degradation over several weeks,” says Dr. Holly Little, Director of Research and Development at Acadian Plant Health™.

“Our data showed we were able to reduce food degradation by approximately 10% by day 15. This could make up for the current 10% loss exporters are experiencing with delays to destination markets”, say Dr. Little. This saves on transport costs, but more importantly, ensures that fruit makes it to market, and ultimately sold.

Over and above longer shelf life, the effects of the extracts were also noted on nutritional quality with higher concentrations of iron, potassium, total soluble protein and total phenolics in spinach treated with Ascophyllum nodosum compared to untreated controls. Adding to the marketable quality of these exports.

Slowing down the oxidation process and extending shelf life can effectively reduce food waste and seaweed extracts play a fundamental role in this area.  With less food loss and waste, we could reduce food in landfills, reduce greenhouse emissions and inevitably climate change effects as well.

Want to learn more about seaweed extracts and their antioxidant effects? Read about our innovations here or contact us with any questions.