With Edipeel, fresh produce can last much longer after harvest, and preserve its flavor and appearance, which has the potential to massively reduce food waste.
When it comes to reducing food waste, which is also essentially an energy and water waste issue as well, there are a host of different approaches, ranging from the pre-harvest stage to the post-consumer stage, and one of the trickiest parts of the puzzle is keeping fresh foods fresh. One of the huge innovations in reducing food waste and increasing food supplies came through better food preservation techniques, but even though canning and freezing and drying are great for some foods, it's not so great for many fruits and veggies, where fresh is preferred over canned or frozen.
One startup might have the solution, or at least one solution, to decreasing food waste of perishable produce, while also preserving flavor, nutrition, and appearance. Apeel Sciences has developed a product that is said to be able to extend "the typical edible shelf life" of fresh foods by 2 to 5 times, and to do so as an edible coating that is not only odorless, tasteless, and invisible, but which is also made from natural plant extracts. And the extracts are made from recycled agricultural byproducts, which may account for a further reduction in food waste for its own production.
The natural plant extracts in the Edipeel coating form an ultra-thin barrier that slows water loss and oxidation in fresh produce, which are two of the leading causes of spoilage. By keeping the produce fresh longer, Edipeel not only extends the shelf life and could reduce waste at the retailer, but it also enables the items to retain their nutrients, flavor, and moisture, which makes it better for the consumer. And because the natural formula is said to help keep produce fresh longer, the growers may be able to harvest at peak ripeness with less waste, and the coating could also reduce the need for so much plastic packaging and petroleum-based wax coatings.
"We take the unused parts of plants—the parts you don't eat—and recycle them to create a natural formula that we can use to protect food crops and keep produce fresher longer. This improves the product for consumers while helping to reduce food waste... which also means less water and energy use and reduced reliance on pesticides and chemical preservatives." - Apeel
This timelapse video helps to illustrate the potential of Edipeel:
The product is formulated as a powder that is then reconstituted for use, and can be applied through conventional spray-on or dipping processes, after which the solution dries into an ultra-thin coating on each item. As far as the answer to the question of, "Yeah, but is it organic?," the company says "Our natural formulas work with both organic and non-organic produce, and allow organic growers to stay organic. We are currently applying for our USDA Organic certification."
Apeel Sciences says that Edipeel has been successfully tested in field trials and commercial applications this year, and will begin to see use by selected growers and producers next year. The company is also working on a pre-harvest product, called Invisipeel, which is said to "cloak" the surface of produce from insects and fungi, which could reduce pesticide use on the farm. Find out more at Apeel Sciences, or read the recent profile of the company in the New York Times.