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Molecular Camouflage: Developing Natural Barrier Coatings

James Rogers of aPEEL Technology in the U.S. is developing a molecular camouflage that uses plant extracts to create an edible, ultrathin barrier that can be applied to harvested crops to extend their shelf-life without refrigeration and protect them from being eaten by pests. In Phase I, they discovered that highly cross-linked cutin-like polyesters made the best coating material for plants. They developed a low-cost, multi-step coating process beginning with modified, water-soluble cutin monomers derived from tomatoes that are polymerized and thereby fixed to a plant surface by gentle heating. In Phase II, they will develop packets of optimized, dried formula for small-holder farmers in poor-resource settings that can be easily mixed with water for dip-coating onto the roots of cassava to protect them from perishing. They will test the ability of the coating to extend the shelf-life of cassava, and refine the formula in collaboration with a university in Nairobi, Kenya. They will also evaluate consumer perception of the coating, and perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine the value to small-holder farmers.

More information about Protect Crop Plants from Biotic Stresses from Field to Market (Round 9)

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.