UCSB Materials alumnus James Rogers, Ph.D. 2014, and his company Apeel Sciences featured in the New York Times

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

From the article "An (Edible) Solution to Extend Produce’s Shelf Life" in The New York Times, written by Stephanie Strom:

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — What if a Florida tomato could be left on the vine long enough to turn red and fully develop its flavor — and still be ripe and juicy when it arrived at a grocery store in New York days later?

That is precisely the promise of a start-up here in Southern California, Apeel Sciences, that aims to make obsolete the gas, wax and other tricks growers use to keep fruits and vegetables fresh over time.

Using leaves, stems, banana peels and other fresh plant materials left behind after fruits and vegetables are picked or processed, 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. Apeel can even deliver a day-of-the-week bunch of bananas, each ripening on a different day.

An Apeel product already has been used to stretch the shelf life of cassava in Africa.

“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,” said James Rogers, the founder and chief executive of Apeel. “We can change that.”

f the product performs as advertised, it could bring sweeping changes to the produce industry and grocery aisles. It could reduce food waste and the use of pesticides and increase the varieties of fruits and vegetables available.

“The socioeconomic factors are as important as these technologies themselves,” said Christopher B. Watkins, a professor at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Americans have greater access than ever to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year-round. That abundance can come at the expense of taste, as plants are chosen for their ability to withstand time and transportation, not necessarily for their flavor. And yet an enormous amount of what’s produced still rots before it can be shipped.

Another effort to alter that trade-off is SmartFresh, a product developed with Professor Watkins’s research that keeps apples from ripening too quickly in storage.

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.

Please read the entire story at The New York Times

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