Gassing Produce May be a Tool of the Past

The Lempert Report
January 27, 2017

The New York Times reports that Apeel Sciences of California’s goal is to make obsolete the gas, wax and other tricks growers use to keep fruits and vegetables fresh.

Apeel has developed a method for creating imperceptible, edible barriers that the company says can extend the life of produce like green beans and berries by as much as five times by using leaves, stems, banana peels and other fresh plant materials left behind after fruits and vegetables are picked or processed. Apeel’s products, sold under the brand names Edipeel and Invisipeel, take plant materials and extract all liquids from them to produce tiny pellets. The company then uses molecules from those pellets to control the rate of water and gases that go in and out of produce, thus slowing down the rate of decay. 

James Rogers, the founder and chief executive of Apeel correctly points out that  “It takes 30 days to get blueberries grown in Chile to market in the United States, which means they have to be picked before they’re ripe and shipped under heavy refrigeration.” 

This process is untested in mass volume but it could reduce food waste and the use of pesticides. The reality is that there is an enormous amount of produce that rots before it can be shipped. 

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Edipeel as “generally recognized as safe,” a status that means a product is safe to eat and good for sale. Apeel has raised $40 million in venture capital.  At this time, the team is starting negotiations with produce companies and these produce companies together account for some $6 billion in sales.

Apeel according to the NY Times story could, for instance, increase yields by reducing losses at the harvest level, which would translate into lower prices for consumers. It could reduce agriculture’s environmental impact by allowing growers to ship products with an Edipeel barrier at higher temperatures. And before harvest, an Edipeel barrier could repel pests and fungi and thus reduce the use of pesticides. And then there is the enormous positive impact to reduce food waste.