Apeel Sciences was founded in 2012, with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, by James Roger, who is CEO of the company and has a PhD in Materials. With a mission of decreasing food spoilage, the company created a barrier made out of edible plant materials that slow down the rate of spoilage. The barrier helps moisture stay inside and oxygen stay outside. Apeel coatings form a film of lipid molecules, which are found in cutin, the natural waxy coating that is on fruits and vegetables. This barrier can be sprayed on or produce can be dipped into the treatment. The company also works with partners from smallholder farmers and local organic growers and large food brands to produce better quality and more sustainable produce.
Apeel developed a protective barrier for produce comprised of fatty acids, which are also found in cutin, the waxy barrier naturally found on the outside of plants. These fatty acids are lipid molecules that dissolve in water, and after application the water evaporates and the lipid molecules join together and form a film. The protective coating slows food spoilage by preventing dehydration and blocking oxygen from getting inside. The oxygen barrier slows the rate of metabolism, so the nutrients in the fruit are depleted more slowly.
Apeel has developed products for USDA Organic Certified and conventional produce categories. The product, Edipeel, is supplied as a powder that can be mixed with water and sprayed onto produce or in which to dip produce. The Apeel barrier coating has been reported to double the ripeness window of avocados, which have been available at Costco. Apeel's coatings have also been used by citrus and asparagus suppliers. Sage Fruit Company partnered with Apeel to treat its organic apples. Apeel partnerships with food suppliers and grocery stores also includes Kroger in the US, Oppy in Canada, and the Danish produce wholesaler Nature’s Pride. Nature's Pride is a supplier of Apeel mangoes.
Apeel has patents for hyperspectral image processing of food products. Apeel has a patent on biomarker analysis in plant extracts to predict infection in plant products. Other Apeel patents are related to the preparation of plant extract compositions for forming protective coatings and also for sanitizing and preserving produce.
In 2021, Apeel acquired ImpactVision, an imaging technology company. Apeel has plans to use ImpactVison’s imaging and machine learning technologies to allow food suppliers to collect quantifiable data about produce such as ripeness, freshness, and nutritional density. ImpactVision’s technology uses hyperspectral imaging, in which the wavelengths of light are outside of those visible to the human eye. Hyperspectral imaging can show differences in the absorption and reflection of light at distinctive wavelengths that correlate the molecular composition of foods and food characteristics, such as ripeness, nutritional levels, and bacterial contamination. The technology can provide information about the pH and tenderness of beef and the sugar content and ripeness of avocados.
Apeel’s packing houses and distribution centers are expected to integrate the imaging technology, which will collect images of produce along conveyance lines and machine learning models will identify unique visual cues that correlate to freshness, degree of maturity, and phytonutrient content. This information is expected to help consumers and suppliers maximize the quality of produce and reduce waste.
Inside the Science of Apeel, the Clever Coating That Saves Your Avocados
June 21, 2018