In the future, perishable foods may have a biological assist from coatings that improve their shelf life. Apeel, a company based in Santa Barbara, California, is designing invisible, edible coatings that keep out air to prevent fresh produce from rotting. The company just secured $33 million in funding, according to Modern Farmer, meaning that the innovation is closer to making its way to a supermarket near you.
Essentially, Apeel’s coatings are tasteless peels that can give other fruits and vegetables the hearty shelf life enjoyed by fruits like oranges, which have thick peels to better protect them from mold and water loss. Since every fruit is different, Apeel makes different coatings for various types of produce based on how it degrades, all made with agricultural byproducts like grape skins or broccoli stems. It estimates that its Edipeel coatings can extend the shelf life of food by two to five times what’s typical for uncoated products.
Food waste is a major issue worldwide. The United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of all food goes into landfills due to spoilage or because it gets discarded. (Like if it falls off the truck on the way to the store.)
Edible protective coatings could end up making your fruit taste better, too. Because fruit has to withstand the perils of shipping, it’s often picked when it’s not as ripe as you’d like it to be, which is why grocery store tomatoes are way less delicious than the ones from your garden. Plus, produce doesn’t need as much packaging if it’s already coated.
The company also wants to reduce pesticide use by driving away bugs from plants in the field. “Our Invispeel formula camouflages produce surfaces with an ultrathin layer of chemically-contrasting molecules, rendering crops unrecognizable to pests and thus protecting them from bacteria, fungi, and insects,” according to Apeel, meaning that farmers wouldn’t need to use as many chemical pesticides.
It's still in the testing phase right now, but select farmers will start using Edipeel in 2017.
[h/t Modern Farmer]
All images courtesy Apeel.