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Fredericton researcher develops all-natural food preservative, wins prestigious award
A Fredericton entrepreneur is poised to disrupt the food and beverage industry with the launch of a first-of-its-kind all natural, clean label preservative that ensures food safety and a longer shelf life without the health risks associated with artificial preservatives.
The ground-breaking product has earned Tanzina Huq, 34, a prestigious award from Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada for business and academia.
In recognition of the ongoing success of her start-up and its work to develop a viable broad-spectrum preservative for the food and beverage industry, Huq — a former Mitacs postdoctoral fellow in the department of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick, and co-founder and chief technology officer of Fredericton-based start-up Chinova Bioworks — will be presented the Mitacs Outstanding Entrepreneur Award on May 28 at a ceremony in Halifax.
Huq’s product, Chiber, is based on a fibre extracted from white button mushrooms that works as a natural antimicrobial, providing health benefits to consumers while keeping foods and beverages fresh, safe and nutritious. It protects against bacteria, yeast, mold and pathogens. The product was first tested on juices, sparkling water and iced teas, and is now being applied to dairy products and salad dressings.
“In light of recent efforts by Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration to curb the use of artificial preservatives like sodium benzoate and sodium sorbate — which have been linked to health risks — food and beverage companies are seeking natural alternatives,” Huq explained. “Our product offers an affordable, effective and flexible solution.”
Chinova Bioworks recently completed its first pilot-scale production and is gearing up for a product launch in the U.S. in October. The company is working with clients in Canada and the U.S. that are looking to make their products healthy and clean label.
In the three years since its launch in April, 2016, Chinova Bioworks has grown to 11 employees and plans to hire two more positions by July of this year. The company is currently targeting food and beverage applications with plans to extend Chiber to cosmetic applications by 2022.
“I never imagined that the idea to develop a natural preservative would go this far,” said Huq, whose initial goal was to help reduce food waste. “It was the support of Mitacs early on in my research that enabled us to develop a minimal viable product. Without that leg up, we wouldn’t have been able to start our company.”
Huq is one of five winners of the Entrepreneur Award, presented by Mitacs, who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians.
“Canada has exceptional talent and Mitacs is extremely proud to support young entrepreneurs in spring-boarding to market the next generation of innovations,” said Alejandro Adem, Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director, noting that one out of every 10 Mitacs interns chooses to pursue their own business. “Their contributions are strengthening the Canadian economy, spurring productivity and creating jobs.”