48. Apeel Sciences

The end of rotten food.

FoundersJames Rogers, Ph.D. (CEO)
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Goleta, California
$40 million
Valuation: $150 million (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Nanotechnology, materials science
Agriculture, food harvesting

George Kavallines | CNBC

The U.N. estimates that the global cost of food waste is $2.6 trillion per year. Apeel Sciences is trying to reduce that. The Goleta, California-based company has developed an edible substance that, when applied to the outside of harvested fruits and vegetables, creates an invisible shield that can double their lifespan without refrigeration. This, the company says, greatly reduces food waste and helps preserve natural resources. That's especially important when it's estimated that the number of mouths to feed on Earth will reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

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Founder and CEO James Rogers has a background in material engineering and, as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon, studied the effects of water and oxygen on steel. When later on he began doing work at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he would drive past rich harvesting fields and wonder if water and oxygen could affect the life of the produce being grown.

The company's technology basically works like this: Plant materials that are left behind on the farm (leaves and peels, for instance) are blended, and then lipid molecules are extracted. The resulting powder is then turned into a liquid that is sprayed on produce; fruits and vegetables can also be dipped into the solution. The company's first products are Apeel Avocado and Apeel Citrus, which, as the names suggest, extend the life of avocados and all kinds of citrus. The company's customers are farmers, growers and retailers.

Apeel has raised $40 million in funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, DBL Partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. In addition to developing a commercial business in the United States, the company says it is also working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bring its technology to developing countries.