A startup that counts Oprah Winfrey among its backers is offering a new way to let grocers know when produce will be past peak as part of its attempt to stamp out food waste.
Apeel Sciences Inc, the agriculture-technology company that began nine years ago with a US$100,000 (RM413,000) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is now valued at more than US$1bil (RM4.13bil), is moving into the next phase of founder James Rogers’ vision to solve the US$2.6 trillion (RM10.73 trillion) problem of discarded food.
Apeel, which made its name in the food world with a patented, plant-based coating that extends the freshness of produce like avocados, English cucumbers, mangoes and organic apples, is adding technology that can see what’s happening inside fruits and vegetables. The idea is to give everyone across the food-supply chain valuable and cost-saving information like “When will this apple go bad?”
“It reveals a lot about a piece of produce that we can’t see or detect by standing in the grocery aisle giving it a squish or smell test,” said Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy Agriculture chief in the Obama administration who is both an adviser to the California-based company and an investor.
Apeel’s latest chapter stems from its recent acquisition of startup ImpactVision for an undisclosed amount. The purchase, formally announced on Tuesday, gives Apeel hyperspectral imaging technology, which is already being tested at produce suppliers like Nature’s Pride in Europe. It will also be used by grocers such as Kroger Co, the largest US chain.
“The list of things that you can see is incredible,” Rogers, the company’s chief executive officer who has a Ph.D. in materials science, said in an interview. “You can see things like what day will this avocado be perfectly ripe.”
Such knowledge gives suppliers the power of “sending the right food to the right places”, he said.
The technology’s potential to assess nutritional characteristics could be a powerful advancement in how we understand food’s impact on human health, Walter Robb, former Whole Foods Market Inc CEO and Apeel investor, said in an interview.
There’s a “dark matter of plants that we’ve not really fully understood in terms of its powerful healing and nutritional potential”, he said. – Bloomberg