Several years ago, while driving through lush farmland on his way home to Santa Barbara, Apeel Sciences Founder and CEO James Rogers heard a story on the radio about global hunger. He wondered how so many people could be hungry with 3.95 billion acres of farmland around the world.
It turns out that there isn’t an issue with growing the amount of food we need. The culprit is spoilage.
Shortly afterwards, James and the Apeel Sciences team went to work building a barrier out of edible plant materials that would slow down the rate of spoilage.
Take your halved avocado in the fridge – within weeks it dehydrates and oxygen seeps in, turning it to goop and readying it for salsa or the bin.
Companies like Apeel, founded in 2012, and Hazel Technologies, founded in 2015, work to extend the shelf-life of vegetables and fruit.
Apeel has developed a lipid-kind of substance, which they either spray on fruit or dip the fruit in, that prevents water-loss in the first place, by locking in moisture and keeping out air. This extends the lifespan of an avocado by almost a week and doubles the ripeness window of those same avocados from two to four days. Mold comes – later.
Right now, UK supermarket ASDA is testing the Apeel solution on shipments of clementines.
To address the same issue of shelf life, Hazel Technology developed a packaging insert or ‘sachet’ with an enhancing vapor that, when tucked in boxes of harvested produce, extends the shelf-life of that produce by as much as three times longer.
Take Mission Produce, for instance. For years, that packer, shipper, and exporter of avocados looked for ways to keep its avocados longer. Last January, Hazel Tech placed its 1-MCP sachet in their boxes of avocados, leading to a partnership between the two companies.
“In our initial year of testing”, Patrick Cortes, Senior Director of Business Development for Mission reported, “the company’s solutions proved to increase the shelf-life of both hard and ripe avocados, maintain and extend the internal quality of the fruit, and minimize the operational impact to the supply chain.”
Most AgTech start-ups that wrap their heads around producing more food, focus on labor shortages. These two innovative companies reasoned that in the United States alone, about 30% of harvested food decays due to spoilage. Keeping produce fresher also decreases the need for post-harvest treatments, like pesticides, as well as reducing the amount of packaging needed to prolong shelf life.
It’s a win-win-win all around!