Nigerian biotech startup Coating+ is looking to solve three problems.
By Gemma Milne
In Nigeria, the aquaculture industry makes up a significant portion of the nation’s industry. With over 100,000 metric tons of fish being produced annually, the industry creates both wealth for the economy and a sizeable amount of shrimp shell waste.
Globally, 32% of food produced goes to waste – enough food to feed 1.6billion people. In Nigeria alone, over ₦28.4billion is lost in the tomato market. It’s one thing to say we need to produce more food to feed the world, but an effort must also go into saving what we already have.
Malnutrition – in particular, micronutrient deficiency and protein-energy malnutrition – is a huge issue in some parts of Africa. Thirty-five percent of children under the age of 5 are stunted, and 24% are underweight due to lack of nutrient intake in their food and drink.
Coating+ is out to tackle all three issues. The biotech has created a transparent gelatinous coating that is sprayed onto fresh fruit and vegetables to prolong their shelf life. It’s made using a combination of chitosan – a sugar which can be extracted from shrimp shells – along with soy protein and micronutrients, and its preservation qualities are set to save farmers money on unsold produce. They are focusing on using the spray on fruit and vegetables that don’t require peeling – such as tomatoes and grapes – so that the nutritional value of the coating is also consumed.
The company was born out of a group of biochemistry master’s students at the University of Ilorin. Albert Kure, one of the five team members working to get Coating+ to market, pitched the innovative solution to the 2018 Thought For Food Summit judges, and brought the team to victory, bringing home $10,000 to complete their NAFDAC registration and automate the coating process for farmers.