Strella BioTech’s Katherine Sizov wastes no time getting down to business
Seattle, WA-based Strella BioTechnology is not in the business of wasting time — or food for that matter. In fact, the startling statistics surrounding food waste inspired 26-year-old Katherine Sizov to start the company five years ago while she was still in college.
“There’s no guardian angel to watch over produce,” Sizov told The Produce News. “It’s like a hot potato — passed from one person to the next. There’s no one saying, ‘are we making the best decision on behalf of the apple?’”
So, that’s what Sizov set out to do. With a background in molecular biology and a newfound passion for reducing food waste, she started building a wireless sensor for apples and pears in controlled atmosphere storage rooms.
“Fruits and veggies talk to each other, but they use gases to communicate,” Sizov said. “We built a sensor that intercepts those secret communications between fruits and vegetables and turn that into a shelf-life reading.”
Strella BioTech currently has sensors in 11 countries and has monitored over 2 billion apples and pears. The company has also recently added bananas to its monitoring lineup.
“We’re following apples and pears down the supply chain and we’ve recently started with bananas too,” Sizov said. “We put sensors inside ripening rooms and build machine-learning algorithms to predict how ripe the bananas are going to be at the end of the cycle. We issue recommendations on how to adjust the ripening process to get that ideal ripe.”
Sizov stressed that her company is very supplier friendly, but it has a lot to offer retailers as well.
“We use sensor data collected at the supplier level and use that to help the retailer,” she said. “We help retailers automate their QC and sort inventory based on maturity.”
The team at Strella comprises scientists, engineers, postharvest technologists and produce lovers — all passionate about building a better future. The company has offices in Philadelphia and Seattle and is currently working to do global distribution.
“I wanted to start a company that had a benefit for more than just me,” Sizov said. “People put their blood, sweat and tears into growing produce and food waste impacts everyone. One-third of food is wasted before it’s consumed — we can do better.”
Photo: Katherine Sizov and Jay Jordan, founders of Strella BioTechnology.