Is the cheese still good? and other questions a new food technology can answer

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Looking through the refrigerator at home, we are often assailed by doubts: “Will the chicken still be good after all this time?” “What about the cheese?” “Wait, when did I buy this — wasn’t it last week?”

To answer these questions, US-Israeli company Silo has come up with a device that it says will keep food fresh longer, as well as keeping track of it.

Silo’s CEO Tal Lapidot founded the company in 2016 after quitting his job as project manager in a medical company. He wanted to find a solution to the problem of food storage.

“Groceries in Tel Aviv are very expensive and I wanted to find a better way to keep food fresh,” he said in a phone interview. He really hates to throw food away, he said, and he never buys the right amount or remembers to use it all.

So Lapidot used his background in mechanical and system engineering and came up with a device that he says can keep food fresh two to five times longer.

Silo has developed a set of BPA-free containers, each with its own cover that needs to be pressed down on a Silo-developed electronic base. After the cover is on the base for a few seconds, the container “is perfectly sealed” by means of a vacuuming process that slows oxidation, the company said in a video posted on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform where the startup is seeking to raise funds for the product.

A vacuuming process keeps air away from the food, slowing oxidation and keeping it fresher for longer. When consumers want to eat the food, all they have to do is click on a lever that is on the cover of the containers, to release the air, thus allowing the box to be opened.

US-Israeli startup Silo has developed a vacuum technology to help keep food fresh for longer (Courtesy)
Silo also comes with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant built in, the company said, which allows users to use voice commands to manage their food. They can, for example, tell Alexa to remember that the strawberries were put in the fridge on a certain date. Alexa then adds strawberries to its inventory list and notes that they should stay fresh for about a week. They can also ask Alexa if the chicken in the fridge is still good.

The Silo base also automatically weighs the food, so it knows how much is left, and can alert the user, via a phone app, if something needs to be replenished.

“This all happens in the cloud, a food gets tagged, the services match the name and a shelf life estimation is given. Alexa can tell you how long it is good for because it knows when you tagged the food,” Lapidot told The Times of Israel.

Lapidot added that the Silo device, besides providing fresher food, could also help address the global issue of food waste.

According to Boston Consulting Group, a US management consulting group, some 1.6 billion tons of food, accounting for one-third of the food produced for human consumption, worth $1.2 trillion are wasted every year worldwide.

“Most of the waste is on the consumer and not the industrial level,” said Lapidot.

Silo was founded two years ago and now employs some 20 people, Lapidot said.

Cognitiv Ventures, the AI-focused fund of crowdfunding VC fund OurCrowd, has invested in the company, together with other investors.

US-Israeli startup Silo has developed a vacuum technology to help keep food fresh for longer and that can track freshness as well (Courtesy)
On October 16, on the occasion of World Food Day, the company launched its Kickstarter campaign, saying that all the money pledged will be used for manufacturing only.

Since September, Silo has been testing 20 prototypes with a community of users in the US as part of a pilot study, Lapidot said. The firm hopes to deliver its first batch of products in July 2019.

In the future, Lapidot said, the firm’s food tracking technology could also be used to track consumption patterns, to improve eating habits. This means that Silo could give dietary tips suggesting, for example cutting back on cake while increasing the number of cherry tomatoes in the fridge, thus “affecting our behavior in the kitchen,” he said.