From Middle School Science Project to the World's Largest Prize for Design - FreshPaper Awarded the INDEX Award by HRH the Crown Princess of Denmark

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Awarded biennially, the international €500,000 INDEX Award recognizes the designs that most benefit humanity. This year, an American designer received the INDEX Award for a simple innovation addressing the massive global challenge of food waste, FreshPaper.

Fenugreen FreshPaper Founders Receive the INDEX Award

FreshPaper designer Kavita Shukla at the INDEX Award Ceremony (Broadcast on CNN)

The design is a remarkable way of re-thinking, re-purposing and re-combining an old tradition with industrial knowledge into an easy-to-use everyday consumer product for everyone.

While the world’s farmers harvest enough food to feed the planet, it is estimated that up to 50% of the global food supply is wasted. A young American designer, Kavita Shukla is taking on this enormous, yet often overlooked, global challenge with a simple design, FreshPaper. Low-cost, compostable and infused only with organic spices, FreshPaper keeps produce fresh for 2-4x longer, and holds the potential to change how the world keeps its food fresh.

FreshPaper Origins

Shukla came across an old home remedy after accidentally drinking some tap water while visiting her grandmother in India. Her grandmother gave her a “spice tea,” and when she didn’t get sick, her curiosity was sparked. After years of experimenting with the spices (starting with a middle school science project), she discovered a new application of her grandmother's generations-old home remedy - a remarkably effective way to keep food fresh. She was awarded a patent for FreshPaper at the age of 17. Today, FreshPaper is available in stores across the United States, including Whole Foods and Wegmans, and used by farmers and families in over 35 countries.

Empowering Consumers and Farmers

In 2010, Shukla founded a social enterprise, Fenugreen, to bring FreshPaper to those in need across the globe. FreshPaper is a simple sheet of paper infused with organic spices, which inhibit bacterial and fungal growth; amongst others - fenugreek, which inspired the company’s name - and the ingeniously simple idea has the properties to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

As for usage, FreshPaper only needs to be placed wherever produce is stored – in a refrigerator drawer, fruit bowl, or any other container (in or out of the fridge). Customers have described it as a “dryer sheet for produce” because it does not have to be in direct contact with the produce to work.

“The design is a remarkable way of re-thinking, re-purposing and re-combining an old tradition with industrial knowledge into an easy-to-use everyday consumer product for everyone,” says INDEX Award jury member Patrick Frick.

A Massive Global Challenge

While the world’s farmers harvest enough food to feed the planet, inefficiencies in food distribution leave 800 million hungry and lead to staggering energy and natural resource waste – hundreds of millions of acres of wasted farmland, billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, trillions of gallons of wasted water and fuel, and countless hours of lost human labor.

Spoilage contributes to major inventory, transportation, and labor inefficiencies across the global food value chain, costing $450 billion in economic losses each year. With 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050, addressing the challenge of food waste is particularly urgent. More than 1 billion people still live without access to basic refrigeration, and food spoilage is a burden on the world’s most vulnerable communities: small-scale farmers who struggle to get their harvest to market, and families who cannot afford to eat fresh, healthy food.

FreshPaper Receives the INDEX Award

FreshPaper was awarded the INDEX Award for its innovative, scalable approach to this challenge - and for its tremendous potential to improve lives. Simple and sustainable, FreshPaper offers a low-cost, intuitive and accessible solution to a complex problem. FreshPaper has great potential to reduce the need for refrigerating produce and thus improving the lives of people in the industrialized world and the developing world.

FreshPaper also receives the award for being a transformational design that raises global awareness about food waste. The INDEX Award jury hopes that FreshPaper will help create market demand for smarter food preservation products.

FreshPaper is a remarkable design, and a proof and inspiration to other young entrepreneurs. Shukla and her co-founder, medical doctor Swaroop Samant, started Fenugreen by setting up stalls at local farmer’s markets, selling handmade sheets of FreshPaper in the summer of 2011.

The INDEX Award jury accordingly also acknowledges its influence on - and inspiration for - a new generation of design entrepreneurs that not only dream about innovation, but also make it happen and do so on a large scale. The INDEX Award funds will support Fenugreen's next phase of developing and introducing FreshPaper in new applications and to new markets, including the developing world, according to its social mission:"Fresh for All".

Jury Chairman Mikal Hallstrup points out: "FreshPaper is simple, low-tech and hyper affordable, with the potential to scale into new markets. The product has taken off in the United States, but it has immense potential to improve the lives of those living in less developed areas as well, where access to refrigerators is limited. Not only that, but the design is an iconic example of the challenge of food; it's not about producing more but rather about preventing spoilage."

About INDEX: Design to Improve Life, and the INDEX Award Exhibition

The INDEX Award is the largest design award in the world (€500,000) - awarded biennially in Copenhagen, Denmark, under the patronage of HRH The Crown Prince of Denmark. This year's finalists included Google Glass and TED. Previous winners have included Tesla, Kiva, and Apple.

The 2013 INDEX Award Ceremony will be shown on CNN from September 6 - 12.

The 2013 INDEX Award Exhibition will be situated in one of Copenhagen’s historic Kongens Have (The King’s Gardens), where access to the exhibition is free for everyone in the garden’s opening hours.

The exhibition is far from the minimalistic traditions of Scandinavia featuring several 12-foot black, organic shapes with square, golden insets containing the displayed designs. The shapes are lit up at night by LED lights, and each of the 59 finalist designs has a unique, scanable QR (quick read) code with links to audio, video and text about the specific design. (Designed by American architect Greg Lynn and Danish media-architect Christian Ditlev Bruun.)

INDEX Award Exhibition will be on display in The King’s Gardens in Copenhagen until Sunday September 29th 2013, after which it will commence its world tour.

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