A warm breeze blows into my room while I am writing this blog post. It carries the sound of people strolling through the streets and the inviting sound of an ice cream cart in the distance. Our country has been blessed with beautiful weather for three days in a row and national happiness levels have at least tripled. Less happy are the bananas in my fruit basket, which have turned completely brown in no time. Or at least far quicker than the three girls at the other side of the street who brought out their beach chairs to take a tan.
And although I should have been smarter and store my bananas in the fridge, the lack of proper refrigeration is, in fact, a key source of food spoilage around the planet, not least in developing countries. I have written before about how frustrating and sad it is that 3.1 million children die from hunger every year, while 30 to 40% of all fresh produce is lost along the food value chain. Add a growing population and the environmental burden of agriculture to the mix, and it’s clear a solution is more than due. Improving shelf life is a huge opportunity to do more with less.
Which happened to be exactly James Roger’s
cup of tea bowl of fruit salad. Trained a materials engineer, he figured that the technique to keep steel from rusting could be the starting point to keep food from rotting. The latter is caused by two main processes: water evaporating from the fruit or vegetable, and oxygen feeding the fermenting process. Couldn’t we apply a coating that would keep the water in, and the oxygen out, wondered James. Turns out he could, and so the idea for Edipeel was born.
Made from lipids and glycerolipids (difficult words for plant-based fats) sourced from peels, seeds, and pulp, the Edipeel coating works like a little jacket creating a microclimate for your apple, avocado, or lemon. According to the Edipeel team, it can extend shelf life 4 times for some of the dozens of species for which they have developed a custom formula. Produced in powder form, it can be mixed with water and applied to produce with a spray or by dipping. This can be done at food warehouses without large interventions.
In case you’re worried (I was) that your apples will end up being shiny and sticky, and tasting completely different, you can rest assured: the Edipeel is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. And perfectly Edi-ble, of course. It is made 100% of the fats in the seeds and peels of fruit and vegetables itself and perfectly fine for you. The coating is so thin that the extra fat intake will not ruin your (still to be) beach body.
Edipeel’s solution is not only very convenient, it also has a great environmental impact. The product itself is made from fruit and vegetable leftovers, it helps reduce food waste in the value chain, creates the opportunity to decrease the energy intensity of the cold chain of food, and to eliminate plastic packaging. No wonder it has attracted a lot of attention lately.
Originally supported by the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation, the company went through two additional funding rounds raising at least 40 million. This was necessary to support the extensive research needed to develop the most effective coatings for different types of fruits and veggies. By now, at least six farms in California and Africa are using Edipeel, and several deals with warehouses in South-America are in the pipeline.
Is there something not to like about this solution? It’s beautiful in its simplicity (longtime readers of the blog know that I love that) and helps to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our time. The bananas in my kitchen might have gone bad this time, but soon such things will be of the past.