Luci Faas of Nature Fresh Farms Helped Develop North America’s First Compostable Cucumber Wrap
Many Canadians are shifting towards more eco-friendly products and are becoming more aware of the impacts of their consumption habits.
However, a number of products and food items we use daily are only available in plastic packaging. Thus, waste creation is inevitable with the purchase of some produce, including cucumbers. Until now!
Innovation and determination lead to success
Long English cucumbers are a common cucumber variety you can often find in grocery stores. They have thin skin and high water content, so they must be wrapped in plastic packaging to protect against injury and extend their shelf life.
Unfortunately, traditional plastic wrap ends up in the landfill as it cannot decompose or be recycled.
However, thanks to project lead Luci Faas, a 100 per cent home compostable cucumber wrap is now available.
Faas, Nature Fresh Farm’s product development specialist, helped develop this innovative cucumber wrap. This product is the first of its kind in the North American marketplace.
After nearly three years of research, Faas and her small team found a solution to the plastic waste problem by developing a starch-based wrap. It fully breaks down into carbon dioxide and water in a home compost bin without any microplastic residues.
“The innovation and ingenuity of Luci’s team is remarkable. As the sector endeavours to transition to being fully circular in terms of waste and recycling, these types of advancements will continue to be significant contributors in attaining our goals,” says Aaron Coristine, manager of science, regulatory affairs and government relations with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association.
In addition to the outer wrap, the team ensured the eco-friendly messaging and PLU sticker graphics are printed directly on the wrap with compostable ink.
Faas and her team faced a few hurdles along the way, but through perseverance, communication and trial and error, they found a material that worked for their purposes.
“We definitely needed everyone’s understanding – the growers and production and sales teams. We have a very patient and understanding team,” Faas says. “It’s a brand-new concept so we’ve worked with the manufacturer, to ensure things go smoothly.”
Indeed, the project required a lot of internal and external collaboration to make it a success.
“It is very rewarding to see the final product being launched. I enjoyed working with the many departments to develop one product.”
Passion for environmental preservation
Faas’ journey to the ag sector was driven by her passion and experience.
“I started as an environmental educator. That was my first passion so that is what I studied in school. I then got a purchasing agent job in manufacturing. That is where I learned about purchasing,” she says.
After living and working internationally in Japan and the US, “I moved to Canada and was looking for a job related to purchasing. In my first job in Canada, I was a packaging coordinator at the greenhouse and then I purchased and managed dry goods. I learned about produce packaging and that is how I got myself in the agricultural industry, which was seven or eight years ago.”
About three years ago Faas started her career at Nature Fresh Farms in Leamington, Ontario. She looks forward to making sustainable packaging more mainstream in the marketplace and affordable for all consumers.
“Sustainable packaging should not be a premium. Currently, sustainable packaging costs significantly more compared to regular packaging,” Faas says. “Each sector in the industry should work together to bring the cost down. If you can have sustainable packaging that works on regular machines and is reasonably priced, it can result in big changes in the produce sector and the environment.”
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.