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Apeel Sciences using food to extend the shelf life of fresh produce

A California start-up company, Apeel Sciences, is on a mission to solve the staggering amount of food waste in the world by prolonging the shelf life of fresh produce.

About one-third of all U.S. produce ends up in landfills and the rate is even higher in developing nations, due to their lack of access to refrigeration. According to a recent study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization & World Economic Forum, the global cost of food waste is over $2.6 trillion per year.APEEL-LEMONS

Apeel Sciences, founded in 2012 with grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, believes it has a solution to this food waste crisis with its Edipeel product. This edible substance can be applied to the outside of produce, creating an invisible barrier that slows down respiration and prevents evaporation, which could double to quadruple shelf life.

How does it work?

The company extracts natural oils from leaves, stems, peels, seeds, pulp and other fresh plant materials left behind after harvest and creates a water-based rinse that leaves an odorless, tasteless, colorless, edible “peel” on produce, helping keep moisture inside and oxygen out. Basically, Edipeel amplifies nature’s design and uses food to preserve other fresh food.

“When we looked at the global food supply and some of the challenges that we are facing on the planet, we looked at the resources that go into food production and realized that every time a piece of food spoils, it’s not just that piece of food that spoiled, it’s all the natural resources that went into producing that piece of produce,” James Rogers, founder, chief executive officer and science director at Apeel Sciences, told The Produce News. “To us, the culprit of that waste is perishability, and that’s what we are trying to tackle using this natural method to reduce perishability. And we can impact almost every kind of produce on the planet.”

The company recently moved into a larger facility in Santa Barbara in order to scale up its manufacturing capability.

“The exciting thing for us right now is the commercialization of our Edipeel product for avocados and citrus,” said Rogers. “We just moved into a brand new 105,000-square-foot facility where we’re manufacturing enough material to treat the world’s avocado supply, if you can believe that. We also received FDA GRAS designation for our products in the U.S., which means that it is Generally Regarded as Safe. Our product is also OMRI listed, so it’s approved for use on organic produce as well. This product is ready for the market and will be hitting store shelves soon.”

Edipeel creates a barrier on avocados that fools anthracnose, a fungus that enters tiny cracks in the fruit’s skin as it shrivels, creating internal browning. Edipeel can ward off anthracnose by up to 30 days longer than other techniques used for combating the fungus.

“It is applied post harvest by spray in a packingline at the grower’s facility and it allows them to improve export quality,” Rogers said. “Because we are creating that modified atmosphere within the produce itself, that controlled atmosphere travels with the produce through the supply chain to the retail shelf and, ultimately, home to the consumer. For the first time, you have the ability to have an avocado in the optimum shipping environment even though it leaves the shipping container.”

Apeel has raised $40 million in funding from backers including the Gates Foundation, DBL Partners, Upfront Ventures, Andreesen Horowitz and the Rockefeller Foundation.

“We basically have all our manufacturing, we have our supply, we’ve validated the product over the course of the last year between Chile, Peru, Mexico and California, we now have the appropriate formulations for all that fruit, and we are ready to roll out on a large commercial scale,” said Rogers. “Natural spoilage is the leading culprit in the global food waste crisis. If we can slow down the rate that produce spoils, we can get more fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to more people around the world, so fewer people are hungry. And we’ll reduce reliance on chemicals in the growing process, lessen humanity’s impact on the environment, and unlock economic opportunities for growers and producers big and small. This mindset has been Apeel’s mission since day one.”

For more information, go to www.apeelsciences.com.