Exclusive | Inventor Bill Birgen on why he calls SAVRpak the “Rocket Science for Food”
Because of this pandemic, we have seen a surge in demand for food deliveries. Experts predict the trend to continue even after the pandemic is over. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 72% of customers prefer to go with the food delivery option because they don’t want to get out of the comfort of their home. But the challenge delivery partners face was to find a solution for soggy foods.
Aerospace engineer and Inventor Bill Birgen founded SAVRpak, a unique solution to end soggy food. One of the finalists of The Sustainable Agtech Challenge brought to you by The Yield Lab Institute and UNEP, SARVpak not only helps delivery partners deliver fresh food to your home but also reduces food wastage. Bill spoke about his unique invention and plans in an exclusive interview with AgriGate Global Saura Panigrahi,
Congratulations on making it to the Final-8 of The Sustainable Agtech Challenge by the Yield Lab Institute. How has the experience gone?
Each round of the Sustainable AgTech Challenge has brought with it the excitement that can only come from competition. Each opportunity to advance to the next level of the challenge has focused our intent toward real and long-term impactful solutions while working on the many objectives of the challenge, as well as the UN’s 17 goals.
SAVRpak has presented solutions addressing food waste, small-holder farmers, health and well-being, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption and production, and climate action. While many of these objectives were already addressed by our unique agriculture technology, it opened our eyes to the need for our technology in these sectors even more.
How would you like to introduce your startup/innovation? Tell us more about the core area of operations and your team.
SAVRpak is “rocket science for food”. I wanted to find a way to keep his lunch from getting soggy. Having designed temperature, humidity, and anti-icing solutions for space vehicles, I realised that condensation was the enemy of fresh food. To combat this, developed a novel solution: a pack that exists below the dew point. This small patch extracts moisture from the air of a container before it turns into condensation on the surface of the food.
To bring it to market, I along with my partners Greg Maselli and Grant Stafford, a former product designer at Fisher & Paykel and Miso Robotics, developed a paper-and-plant pulp-based pack that can fit into clamshells, pizza boxes, plastic containers, and paper bags. The SAVRpak tech works well with other innovations like ethylene gas absorbers, respirating plastic, and MAP (modified atmosphere packaging).
The Agriculture Sector is very dynamic in nature. What are the major challenges you are facing?
Every type of produce is unique with its own particular respiration rate, aging, and life cycle. SAVRpak is presenting solutions for air-freight produce delivery of Columbian “Golden Berries” to Amsterdam, London, and Frankfurt. These needs are very different from delivering lettuce and strawberries from Central Mexico to Texas by semi-trucks.
Understanding the uniqueness of each farmer and their needs to reach specific desired markets requires different modifications to our main product. There are, of course, many cases where no modifications are necessary. Optimizing the SAVRpak technology is not difficult, but understanding the needs of each farmer takes relationship-building and open communication which is garnered over time and with research.
In recent times, agri-tech has become one of the favorites for investors. What would be your pitch to a prospective investor?
Annual Global Food Waste is a staggering $2.6 trillion problem. SAVRpak combats this by extending the shelf life of produce 50% to 100% without chemicals, using our compostable sachet. By reducing food waste, we can reduce greenhouse gases that come from food waste. We can similarly reduce the cost of farming by efficiency gains that come from less waste.
Agritech is booming with innovative ideas. What would be your advice to young entrepreneurs who would like to venture into this segment?
Don’t begin by trying to solve the big global-scale problem. Rather, solve a small /local problem while keeping an eye on the global implications. Passion comes easy when you are solving personal problems for your local community or family.
Finally, tell us more about your plans.
SAVRpak is rapidly expanding into flower delivery solutions for our new customers in Columbia. The founders of SAVRpak have in-person meetings with farmers in Brazil in early Q4 2021. SAVRpak is also looking to conduct a Series A round of funding to help rapid expansion into North and Central American as customers but also as manufacturers of our tech.
SAVRpak will continue third-party validation, again partnering with UC Davis, but with new agriculture produce varieties.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the views of Agrigate Global.