The plant-based food coating company helps smallholder farmers in emerging markets extend crop shelf life and gain access to new markets
Apeel coating on avocados
Photo as seen on the Facebook page of Apeel

Apeel has raised $30 million in new funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Temasek, and Astanor Ventures. Based in California, Apeel provides plant-derived coatings that keep produce fresh for longer.

The company said the cash injection will be used to help smallholder farmers (SHFs) in emerging markets extend crop shelf life and gain access to new markets, including the US and Germany.

“It’s a misconception that people go hungry because we don’t grow enough food. The issue is the intermittency of supply and an inability to convert perishable assets into economic value,” said James Rogers, founder and chief executive of Apeel.

Rogers said Apeel was founded on the belief that it can improve food security around the world by using technology to create opportunities for those who have limited or no access to the global food system.

He explained: “The new funding from IFC, Temasek, and Astanor will enable us to not only give SHFs more time to market their fresh produce but also greater access to higher-value markets previously out of reach because of inevitable perishability.”

In conjunction with IFC, Apeel’s new programmes for smallholder farmers will lead to the establishment of Apeel-powered supply chains in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

Apeel’s technology will also be used to improve domestic supply chains, reducing food loss without the use of refrigeration, while increasing access to nutrition and improving domestic economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, informal retailers and consumers within developing countries.

With decreased food loss and improved quality throughout the supply chain, SHFs will be able to access new market opportunities previously out of reach without a cold infrastructure or means for rapid transport.

“Innovative technologies can change the course of development in emerging markets and save livelihoods, economies, and in this case, food. We are excited to partner with Apeel to invest in a game-changing technology that can limit food waste by half, enhance sustainability, and mitigate climate change,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, chief operating officer of IFC.

Less food waste, more food security

SHFs managing up to five hectares produce more than 50% of the global fruit supply, yet agricultural workers still make up 65% of all poor working adults and many smallholder farmers suffer from hunger and extreme poverty.

Fresh fruits and vegetables offer SHFs much larger income opportunities than staple crops, and demand for fresh produce is increasing globally.

The challenge is that growing something valuable is only beneficial if the farmer can access a market with a buyer. Without access to a refrigerated supply chain, much of what an SHF produce can only reach small local markets where the supply of locally grown crops often far exceeds demand.

Because of perishability, these market dynamics lead to systemic poverty, significant amounts of food loss and waste, and even food insecurity for those who make their livelihoods from farming.

“Finding solutions to food insecurity and food waste is one of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Kathleen Merrigan, partner at Astanor Ventures. “Apeel’s dedication and bold vision to tackle this problem using its revolutionary technology will transform the global food system and the lives of smallholder farmers for the better.”

Merrigan said Astanor seeks to back ambitious businesses who are creating systemic change in the food production and agriculture supply chains. “We are excited to be part of Apeel’s mission to create a more secure and sustainable food future.”

Improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers has been core to Apeel’s mission since day one. Founded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government, Apeel’s plant-based technology was designed to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables produced by farmers without access to the refrigerated supply chains currently required to bring crops to market.

Today, Apeel produce is available nationwide in the US, Germany and other countries across Europe. The company claims it is leading a 50% reduction of food waste on US and EU store shelves.

Date published: 25 October 2020

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