Globally, a third of all food grown is wasted, costing the world $2.6 trillion dollars a year. Not only that but when food rots in landfill it releases methane, a gas that is 25 times more potent than CO2.
While we are going about our daily lives, the well-intentioned fresh fruit and veg that we bought are sitting in the fridge rotting, fast.
Within a few days, fresh food left uneaten can degrade to inedible or ugly, to the point that the average person wouldn’t eat it.
There is no escaping that fresh food has a far shorter shelf-life than frozen and processed foods. The two main reasons fruit and veg degrade are: moisture loss from evaporation and oxygen getting in — oxidation.
Founded in 2012, by materials scientist James Rogers with help from a grant from the Gates Foundation, Apeel Sciences says their solution extends the shelf life of produce in a way “that works with nature (not against it).”
The California-based startup has developed an edible substance that, when applied to the outside of harvested fruits and vegetables, creates an invisible shield that can slow water loss and oxidation and dramatically increase their lifespan — even without refrigeration.
The company’s innovative technology uses plant materials that are left behind on the farm like leaves and peels, for instance, which are then blended and lipid molecules are extracted.
The liquid is either sprayed on produce, or fruits and vegetables are dipped into the solution. Apeel’s solution is tasteless and completely safe for human consumption. The company’s customers are farmers, growers, and retailers.
The beloved avocado was the company’s first target since they ripen so quickly, often resulting in being spoiled and thrown out. Despite the risky behaviour of the avocado, the U.S. produced 2.4 billion pounds of the fruit last year.
A study found that in addition to extending the lifespan of an avocado by almost a week, Apeel’s product also doubled the ripeness window from two to four days.
The company also claims that it can reduce water loss by 30 percent compared to untreated avocados, and the softening rate by 60 percent while delivering a five-fold reduction in damage.
This year Apeel-treated avocados became available in Costco, Harps and Kroger grocery stores accross the US, with plans to enter the European market this year. They are preparing to add their magic touch to lemons, limes and asparagus.
The company has raised $110 million in funding, including $70 million from a round led by Viking Global. Other investors are Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, DBL Partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Last year, they added Walter Robb, co-founder and former CEO of Whole Foods Market, to its board.