The spontaneous organization of lipid molecules into isolated vesicles was a vital step in the evolution of life on earth; semi-permeable lipid membranes provided a cradle in which biochemical reactions could proceed despite harsh external conditions.
A protective skin, shell or peel of some kind is employed by every form of life on earth.
How do we create an invisible, edible "peel"
that protects fresh produce naturally?
Citrus fruits demonstrate the utility of protective coatings for food crops: fruits with a peel have a 500% longer shelf life than fruits without a peel.
Shelf life is determined by a combination of biological (e.g., mold) and physiological (e.g., water loss) stressors. The relative severity of these stressors depends on the type of crop and stage along the agricultural value chain.
Apeel's technological innovations are based on extracting organic molecules from agricultural byproducts. The molecules are then used to create water-based formulations that coat the surface of fresh produce, forming an ultrathin natural barrier to camouflage more delicate crops and protect produce from external stressors.
The goal of the Apeel science team was to create an edible, water-based formula that could be produced from any kind of wasted plant matter.
Biotic stressors include bacteria, fungi and insects. Growers face a diverse array of biotic stressors, and since crop-attacking microbes and insects are ubiquitous in both fields and greenhouses, avoidance is nearly impossible.
These pests can wipe out entire crops and thus drastic preventative measures are employed in order to maintain yields, such as the use of pesticides.
Apeel takes a completely different approach based on recent developments in polymer science. Invispeel uses a "cloaking" strategy that prevents pests from recognizing the crop as a food source.
Bacteria, fungi, and pests all identify food sources via recognition of specific molecules on produce surfaces. Our Invispeel formula camouflages produce surfaces with an ultrathin layer of chemically-contrasting molecules, rendering crops unrecognizable to pests and thus protecting them from bacteria, fungi, and insects.
Abiotic stressors are physical and chemical in nature and include bruising, water loss, and oxidation. The primary causes of produce spoilage are water loss (transpiration) and exposure to air, which causes oxidation.
Fruits and vegetables eventually wither and shrink as the result of water evaporating out of the plant. Water loss causes the produce to shrink in volume, resulting in poor aesthetic quality and rupture of the produce surface, providing areas of ingress for bacteria and fungi.
Oxidation refers to the reaction of the produce with oxygen, like the browning that occurs on a fresh cut apple surface after a few minutes. On fresh produce, oxidation leads to the development of "off colors" and "off flavors" in the produce.