Shelf Life: Keeping Food Fresh Longer

Have you ever gone to the fridge to find your last couple of apples spoiled? Or maybe the tomatoes were left out too long and started to rot. If you’ve experienced either of these situations or any other disappointing time when you came across rotten food, Shelf Life can help.

According to a study by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 31.9% of an average U.S. household’s food is wasted. This volume equates to approximately $1,866 of food waste per household annually. A concerning amount of food is being thrown away, filling up landfills, and contributing to the waste problem in the U.S.

Shelf Life intends to help alleviate all unnecessary waste with its vacuum drawer. The vacuum seal allows food to last longer, decreasing the probability of disposal.

Perishable items stay fresher when exposed to less oxygen. Mold is an aerobic organism that can’t grow well in environments that lack oxygen. Shelf Life’s solution lessens the amount of oxygen coming into contact with your food.

Shelf Life was created by three engineering students at the University of Virginia, Jack Hermann, Anisha Sharma, and Andrew Wheatley. The founders are currently working to perfect a stand-alone storage container. The electrically-run tub has three different pressure options to generate ideal conditions for the specific type of food being stored.

Shelf Life's current container version of their vacuum seal solution 


The battery pack powering the container’s pressure system will be placed in an insulated sleeve to ensure no negative effects by the cold fridge temperatures to the battery life.

Shelf Life’s next version will fit in a produce draw inside a refrigerator. Futuristically, they will partner with refrigerator manufacturing companies to integrate their technology into new models.

Currently, there is no easy vacuum option to keep food fresh. One Tupperware set uses a hand pump to activate a vacuum seal but can take up to twenty minutes of physical activity to fully depressurize.

Shelf Life is committed to designing their product so it can seamlessly integrate into consumers’ normal routines. Their one-step system is a simple push of a button after closing your refrigerator draw. Shelf Life’s technology that can extend produce life up to ten days could be the difference between waste and energy.

The founders are focused on driving a positive impact through Shelf Life as their venture naturally promotes sustainability, healthy eating, and waste reduction. Consumers can even save money on groceries by throwing away less food.

Shelf Life is initiating a more sustainable future and assuring that the apple you went to the fridge to eat is not actually spoiled, but edible! 

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  • Hi! Thanks for the comment!

    We’ve been looking into getting a patent on our standalone box as sort of a fridge accessory. We’ve also been exploring the idea of partnering with larger fridge companies to build a drawer directly into the fridge using its own power and vacuum pump but we’d need to look more into the logistics to determine whether that would be a feasible investment. 

    Our box runs on three AA batteries that last from a couple of months up to a year depending on how often it is used so the energy consumption for depressurizing and repressurizing the product is fairly minimal in comparison to the energy it takes produce, store, and transport food. We’re also hoping to be an alternative to food preservation brands like FoodSaver which are much more energy and time intensive than our product but are fairly popular in our target markets. 

    Hope this answers your questions. Feel free to shoot us an email at if you have any more thoughts!

  • 1. I see the need for this product. Brilliant idea. But how will you make this into a company? What would stop appliance manufacturers from seeing the promise of the idea and just building it into their own fridges themselves?

    2. The energy to run the pump to depressurize after every time someone opens the drawer -- how much does this amount to for average opening/closing use of the drawers? Would the net energy consumption be less than the energy content of the food being saved? I know it seems abstract but if it takes 1000 kJ to to preserve 500 kJ of food energy, and depending on where the energy comes from (i.e. coal vs. clean), it might not be a net win for the environment OR the household finances (also depends on cost of electricity). Lots of variables...