NSF funds fruit and vegetable preservation tech startup

Farther Farms CEO Mike Annunziata, MBA ’17, left, and Vipul Saran, MPS ’16, the company's chief technology officer.

Cornell startup Farther Farms Inc. has received a $225,000 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfergrant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant supports continuing research of a new process to extend the shelf life of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables without the use of chemicals, artificial preservatives, refrigeration or freezing. Farther Farms will use the grant to further develop its technology and determine the range of fruit and vegetable applications to which it can be applied.

“We are thrilled to partner with the NSF,” said Farther Farms CEO Mike Annunziata, MBA ’17. “America’s Seed Fund is the largest group of technology startups in the country. To be selected is an honor and a strong endorsement of our team, the novelty of our early technical work and its potential for commercialization.”

Farther Farms was founded in 2016 by Cornell students Annunziata and Vipul Saran, MPS ’16. Saran conducted the foundational research in the Department of Food Science. He and Annunziata formalized a business plan through Cornell’s eLab program and are growing the company as members of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. Farther Farms is finalizing plans to conduct grant research at a new laboratory at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York. The park has been called a key strategic asset by the New York State Economic Development Council and has resources to support the development of nascent technologies.

Cornell will serve as the sponsoring research institution, conducting synergistic research within the Department of Food Science.

“The process we have developed could become the next generation of ubiquitous shelf life extension technologies,” said Syed Rizvi, Cornell professor of food science. “Such a breakthrough could be a major contributor to solving food system problems worldwide.”

NSF funding is intended to help small businesses transform promising high-impact technologies into marketable products and services. “Receipt of this grant allows us to continue to build upon our successful fall 2017 seed fundraising round, creating value for our existing investor base and maintaining the rapid pace of our research, development and IP generation,” said Saran, Farther Farms’ chief technology officer.

Zach Koff '02, COO of Shake Shack and adviser to Farther Farms, has extensive experience balancing the logistics of food service operations with consumer demands. “Today in the food service industry, customers expect sustainable, healthy, clean-label options,” said Koff. “Current sourcing solutions are often predisposed to tradeoffs between cold storage energy costs, taste and nutritional quality. Farther Farms’ approach is a paradigm shift for food processing, and a game changer for how restaurant operators can fulfill the needs of their diners.”

Molly Israel is a marketing strategist at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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