Apeel Sciences develops plant-derived shelf life extension technology to reduce food waste. As a major producer and consumer of agricultural products, China faces a serious problem of food waste as it turns towards sustainable urbanization and industrialization. The country needs some ‘Apeel’-like startups.
The idea for ApeelSciences came to the company’s founder and CEO James Rogers in 2011 while driving through the agricultural land of central California. Rogers realized the issue surrounding global food waste was not a problem of ‘growing fresh produce – but the problem was storing it after the food was harvested.’
Rogers applied his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and his entrepreneurial skills acquired from obtaining a certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)’s Technology Management Program. He soon created ApeelSciences. Their main products are ‘Edipeel’ and ‘Invisipeel,’ which help extend shelf life and keep produce fresh for up to 5 times longer than their natural rate of decay.
Edipeel and Invisipeel are natural plant-based, non-chemical solutions that protect both crops and harvested products from eliminating food waste, increasing food quality, and reducing water use.
Since then the company has attracted the attention of many investors. Apeel was officially founded in 2012 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for USD 100,000 – part of the pitch was to help reduce post-harvest food waste in developing countries that lacked refrigeration infrastructure, such as Kenya.
Other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, DBL Partners, Upfront Ventures, S2G Ventures, Powerplant Ventures and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Meanwhile, China’s food startup scene is concentrated on business to business (B2B) services. China also has many startups interested in food, but most of them are either in the service management sector – such as ordering food online – or in the agricultural management sector, specializing in B2B services, acting as a middleman between small farmers and restaurants.
For instance, Meituan Dianping, Eleme, Waimai and Baidu are among the biggest online food delivery companies. Meicai, Song Xiaocai, Haishangxian and Cloud Farm are among some of the successful startups providing fresh food, vegetables, meat and farming supplies to the small and medium restaurants market.
There are also a few initiatives from AI giants like Tencent and Alipay regarding kitchen waste management, focusing on teaching how to sort and reduce kitchen waste.However, there is no startup like ApeelSciences in China.
Considering the amount of food wasted yearly in China – statistics show that enough food to feed 200 million people, about one-sixth of the China’s population, goes to waste annually – and levels of government support for greentech startups, it might be the perfect time to initiate similar AgriTech businesses.