James Rogers is inherently a Global Citizen. He’s spent much of his past years traveling internationally from Nigeria, London, Chile, Madrid, Abu Dhabi, to Kenya and South Africa, and he has a noble mission for his travels — to eliminate food waste.
Rogers, a material scientist, won the University of California Santa Barbara’s New Venture competition after creating a better way to preserve fruit, flowers, and vegetables in 2012. Now his startup, Apeel, has the backing of Silicon Valley, venture capitalists, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the tune of $33 million.
Apeel has two products aimed at reducing food waste: Invisipeel, which protects fruits and vegetables from insects, bacteria, and fungi while still in the field, making pesticides unnecessary; and Edipeel, which keeps fruits and veggies from rotting so quickly.
The root inspiration for Apeel is an organic process that’s been happening for more than 450 million years: many plants naturally generate a protective film. Rogers took that concept and explored how to recreate that film synthetically.
A team of over 40 scientists work together at Apeel to take molecules from rejected produce and develop them into a water-soluable cover for longer lasting, fresher produce.
Rogers and his team utilize molecules from plant material condensed into miniature pellets that act as a barrier, slowing down air and the microorganisms in it that cause food to decay. Since it’s all made from plant material, Appeal’s products are tasteless, odorless, and certified organic. Apeel can even keep avocados from turning brown on the inside by blocking the fungus, anthracnose from permeating the space in the skin as the fruit decomposes and shrinks.
The company also created Florapeel, a flower film that can increase the lifespan of roses, daisies, and hydrangeas by 200%. Florapeel protects and repairs the cut stems of flowers so the plant can continue to take in water.
Rogers expects the products to be covering fruits and flowers by next year.
In an increasingly globalized market where produce like lettuce, blueberries, bananas, green beans, and bananas are often picked 30 days and thousands of miles away before they hit supermarket, the ability for produce to last five times longer is beyond a blessing.
It can save the planet’s landfills from hosting an astounding one-third of food currently wasted.
The Southern California company is no stranger to drought, and the growing need to conserve clean water. Part of their mission is to cut down on agricultural water and energy use by reducing food lost in the production process.
“Two years from now, I hope we’re making tons and tons of this material and it’s getting applied all over the planet,” said Rogers.