Sunburn of high value fruits like apples or pears is already a major cause of costly yield losses for farms in warmer climates. Anticipating a future of ever hotter summers, agronomic attention is swiftly turning to how farms can better shield their harvests from excessive blasts of sunshine.
Gene editing or more traditional breeding methods is one avenue and there are dozens of lab projects across the world looking to produce crops with higher heat or sun tolerance. Another avenue is experimenting with more proactive responses to the surrounding environment. Better netting designs to provide shade; smarter use of calcium carbonate or kaolin clay powders to provide sunscreen; or novel over-crop sprinkling systems to offer evaporative cooling.
Betting on sunscreen for trees
In Las Vegas, biotech startup Cultiva is betting big on the uptake of a sunscreen option, though CEO Luis Hernández said in a video interview with AFN that his company’s solution would steer away from calcium carbonate use, as this requires a cumbersome wash-off post-harvest and the plumes of powder were an irritating hazard for farm workers doing maintenance or picking.
Instead, he said, Cultiva produces a proprietary, food-grade biofilm technology known as SureSeal. The technology delivers a soothing moisture-regulating supplement onto a plant’s outer skin-like layer, its cuticle. By reducing spoilage from excessive wetness or dryness, Sureseal is designed to help farmers increase marketable yields on their crops.
Sealing the deal on a $2.94 million investment
While the company told AFN how expansion plans have been slowed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Hernandez also spoke of the more positive news that it had, despite the widening economic crisis and investor pullback, managed to seal the deal a $2.94 million investment from Advantage Capital. The deal has been made in connection with the Nevada New Markets Jobs Act to boost the local economy, according to Advantage Capital’s Abhi Chandrasekhara. He explained in a statement that his firm “has a long history of investing in businesses based in underserved communities in Nevada and across the country.”