Can longer-lasting produce reduce food waste?

Dive Brief:

  • Apeel Sciences raised $33 million to create a new, all-natural and sustainable method to double the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables and reduce reliance food waste and reliance on pesticides, according to a company statement and the CEO's blog.
  • Apeel uses produce parts that are often left behind during harvesting, such as leaves and stems, and alters them to create an invisible, edible barrier around produce that protects from bugs, mold, oxidation and water loss.​
  • This film can be applied to food crops to reduce food waste — a $1 trillion global crisis.

Dive Insight:

According to a recent study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization & World Economic Forum, approximately 6.7 billion pounds of fresh produce went un-harvested or un-sold by growers last year.

James Rogers, founder & CEO of Apeel Sciences, has claimed that the start-up’s solution to food waste can dramatically reduce food spoilage in “a natural, sustainable and scalable way”.  

“We believe Apeel's natural, invisibly thin, edible barriers can ultimately lead to the availability of more fresh food for more people around the world,” Rogers told Food Dive in an email. “We're using food to extend the life of fresh food, and it’s an extremely sustainable, scalable option for feeding the planet now and in the future.”

Currently, retailers and consumers are losing over $160 billion because of spoiled food every year. Rogers said the company’s process can help dramatically reduce food waste all the way through the value chain by slowing spoilage and allowing more fresh food to make it all of the way to from the farm to a plate.

But even if Apeel’s innovative method of taking ag waste and repurposing it as a natural preservative works as well as it claims, there are still a lot of other factors contributing to the food waste problem.

Harvest losses occur due to poor weather conditions during the season, as well as inadequate harvesting techniques and equipment. Also, a lack of solid infrastructure for transportation, storage, cooling and marketing can contribute to food spoilage. Additionally, perfectly good crops often go un-harvested after food-safety scares, such as the FDA’s salmonella warning in 2008.

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Filed Under: Sustainability
Top image credit: Andrew Welch