Apeel is stepping up its efforts to tackle food waste with its first acquisition. The startup acquired machine learning company ImpactVision for an undisclosed amount.
Apeel uses materials that exist in the peels, seeds, and pulp of all fruits and vegetables to create a protective extra peel that seals moisture in and keeps oxygen out. According to the company, that means its produce stays fresh and nutritious twice as long. It also means less produce goes to waste throughout the supply chain. This plant-based protection is currently applied to produce via application systems throughout packing houses and distribution centers across North America, South America and Europe.
With Apeel's latest acquisition, ImpactVision's hyperspectral imaging technology will now be added to collect data-rich images that will be processed through machine learning models. This allows suppliers to see inside and understand the interior quality of fresh produce by collecting quantifiable data on stage of ripeness, freshness, nutritional density and other indicators of quality.
"Our journey began with Apeel's plant-based protection — an invisible 'peel' that addresses the challenge of global food waste by bringing more time to fresh produce before it spoils. Now, we're expanding our technology to bring to light the previously invisible characteristics of produce, including internal quality, phytonutrient content, and environmental impact," said James Rogers, CEO of Goleta, California-based Apeel. "Using the insights enabled by Apeel's imaging technology, our partners will effectively be able to 'see' inside of every fruit and vegetable, quantifying quality as never before, so that the distribution of fresh food can be optimized. For our partners, this will mean less waste and an immediate bottom-line improvement, and ultimately, the ability to one day differentiate produce by making freshness and nutritional content 'visible' to the consumer."
"ImpactVision's technology can predict internal quality of food products from hyperspectral images. When this ability to 'see beyond the borders of human vision' is combined with Apeel's shelf-life extension technology, the potential to fundamentally transform produce supply chains to reduce post-harvest loss, optimize distribution and lengthen shelf-life is enormous," said Abi Ramanan, founder of San Francisco-based ImpactVision.
Given that 40% of the food grown globally goes to waste, as indicated by Apeel, this more robust and holistic understanding of produce quality will allow fresh food suppliers to optimize distribution. For example, suppliers can now know the exact ripening window for each piece of fruit to then sort and ship to geographical locations that will ensure retailers are getting the highest quality produce.
Today, Apeel has 30 supplier integrations on three continents with plans to double that number by the end of 2021.
Apeel also has a growing network of retail partners in its mission to end food waste, including Springdale, Arkansas-based Harps Food Stores. Additionally, it recently partnered with San Bernardino, California-based Stater Bros. Markets. Shoppers at State Bros. can now purchase Apeel avocados.
The largest privately owned supermarket chain in Southern California, Stater Bros. operates 170 stores and employs approximately 18,000 associates. The company is No. 50 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.