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Israeli Technology Keeps the Bugs Off Supermarket Shelves

Bio[pack] has developed innovative packaging got food products that keeps the bugs out - by giving them a taste of 'nature.'
By TechIsrael Staff
First Publish: 11/14/2011, 10:57 PM

Supermarket shelves
Supermarket shelves
Morguefile

There are now seven billion people in the world, and as in the past, experts are wringing their hands over the possibility that Malthus could finally have his day. Malthus was the English philosopher who expected the world to starve eventually because of a lack of resources, and so far he's been wrong. But seven billion, now... that's a lot of people!

All those people do have to be fed. So far, the world has been able to (more or less) supply its population with food, and in fact most people – even in many third-world countries – are better fed today than ever. But still, the system is showing strain: Grain prices have skyrocketed around the world, the seas are overfished, and pesticides are being overused because pests have been building up resistance to smaller, safer doses. Scientists are working overtime trying to come up with new breakthroughs in food production, before Malthus' prediction comes true.

While much of the work on expanding the food supply is taking place on farms and in labs, Israel's Bio[pack] (http://www.biopack.biz/) is taking a different tack – preventing the loss of food after it's been produced.

Supermarkets and other foodsellers lose a significant portion of their stock each year because of insect infestations in warehouses, manufacturing plants, and store shelves. As everyone knows, getting rid of bugs that have taken up residence in a home or office isn't so easy, and usually requires copious applications of insecticide – an option that is less than ideal for places where food is processed, handled, and stored.

Bio[pack] preserves food by keeping bugs away from the places where it is handled and from the packages they are stored in – safely and efficiently. Using advanced technology, Bio[pack] has developed packaging and storage containers (retail and industrial) that keep bugs away using naturally-occurring bug repellents in fruits, vegetables, grains and spices.

“Our solution is safe and natural, based on natural occurring elements,” says Bio[pack] co-founder Shlomo Navarro. “We have managed to distill many of the elements in plants, grains and spices that repel certain insects, and we have thus been able to develop products that repel insects from factories and warehouses, as well as make sure they stay out of packages on supermarket shelves.”

The product is based on research Navarro did with several colleagues at the Vulcani Agricultural Research Center. That research showed that there were many fruits, vegetables, grains and spices that seemed to have a built-in bug repellent; certain insects just seem to stay away from certain plants.

For example, spearmint plants are known to repel ants; the bugs just cannot stand to be in the presence of spearmint. The same holds true for many other plants, like coriander (repels aphids), horseradish (Colorado potato beetle), and even tomatoes (Cabbage maggot) and potatoes (Mexican bean beetle).

“These properties were known for thousands of years in many cultures around the world,” Navarro says, but it was only recently that scientists began studying which elements in plants repel insects. “Our innovation is that we know which elements to remove, and how to integrate them with other solutions – such as packaging that in and of itself repels bugs.”

Bio[pack]'s innovative packaging may not be the innovation that ends world hunger, but it's definitely a poke in the eye at Malthus!