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katharine-sizov
Credit: Sam Holland

College senior Katherine Sizov recently won the $100,000 grand prize at a national competition for her startup Strella Biotech.

Sizov's startup was one of five finalists that presented in the final round of the ASU Innovation Open at Arizona State University on Feb. 1. Sizov's company created a sensor that measures the ripeness of apples through detection of their ethylene gas production. The technology optimizes the apple–choosing process to maximize freshness and reduce spoilage of fruit. 

Her sensors are already being used by apple–picking companies, ASU Now reported. The prize will allow her team, composed of several other Penn students, to produce more devices. 

In November 2018, Sizov presented the invention in front of hundreds at Huntsman Hall while being recorded for the traveling podcast, "The Pitch."

"Right now, 40 percent of all fresh products are wasted before they even get to a person, mainly because they are stored in big facilities where it’s hard to keep track of everything,” Sizov told Penn Today.

“If even one room of fruit gets spoiled, they just lost $1 million," she added. "It’s a pretty big issue." 

College junior Reginald Lamaute, as well as Zuyang Liu and Malika Shukurova, who are both pursuing master's degrees in engineering, are also members of Strella Biotechnology. 

Sizov has been successful at several similar innovation competitions, including the M&T Innovation Fund, the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Startup Showcase, Summer Venture Awards, and VIP-Xcelerate program.

Runner-up prizes at the ASU Innovation Open went to McGill University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their multidirectional microphone and water-capturing technology, respectively. 

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