Blockchain Tomatoes & Edible Peels: Startups Innovate to Fight Spoilage

As much as 40 percent of food in this country is never eaten, yet 41 million people don’t have enough to eat, including 13 million children, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some of that food insecurity is due to food spoilage, rendering billions of dollars’ worth of fresh meat, produce, and dairy products inedible. Tackling that issue has become important for retailers and other businesses that sell perishable goods. They are looking for ways to use innovative technologies to change how food is harvested or grown, or improve processes along the supply chain.

Last week, Apeel Sciences, a food tech startup, announced it had raised $70 million in a Series C round of funding led by Viking Global Investors, a Greenwich, CT-based hedge fund, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, and S2G Ventures. The Goleta, CA-based company has developed a formula that uses agricultural byproducts such as orange peels and can be used to coat produce, which extends shelf-life. The company said the formula is edible and naturally decomposes.

The financing comes two months after the company began selling avocados coated with Apeel’s formula at Costco and Harps Food Stores, which doubles their shelf-life, the companies say. Apeel says, since then, Harps has had a 10 percent increase in Hass avocado sales.

“Right now, we’re just interested in reducing shrink on the shelves, and by doing that, we can dramatically improve sales in different produce categories,” Apeel founder and CEO James Rogers said in a CNBC interview in June.

Apeel says the new funds will be used to hire people, and to expand its range of products to include citrus, berries, stone fruit, and asparagus.

Among other companies seeking to innovate in this space is Ripe.io, which aims to apply blockchain technologies to the food system. Their first project includes working with a Massachusetts farm to produce “blockchain tomatoes.” The … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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