Science is not a mechanism but a human progress, and not a set of findings but the search for them. - Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values
Solving for Time
I’ll never forget the first message I received at my Apeel email address: a grower writing to offer encouragement for our work on a technology to “combat the tyranny of time.” Time, after all, is viscerally felt by the people in the food system who feed us, and who must face the ticking clock counting down within each fruit and vegetable that can lead to waste. It’s that waste - ⅓ of what is grown - that contributes to 1 in 9 people going hungry, even though we produce enough to feed everyone. Framed another way, more time for food could bring greater abundance.
Today, Apeel has become synonymous with giving more time to food on its path from farm to kitchen, but as we’ve built partnerships across the food chain we’ve learned that more time opens up a previously unreachable landscape full of choices and new questions to answer. The challenge becomes how to better use the time that the Apeel solution gives. In answer, we realized the opportunity lay in helping our partners optimize the benefits of more time, and that ability would come from greater predictability and deeper quality insights of produce over time. With that longer perspective would come the ability to better navigate the supply chain, optimally delivering produce with new insights about its quality and characteristics.
The search for better tools to gain those insights led us to hyperspectral imaging, which today allows NASA to detect traces of life in Martian rocks and would allow us to glimpse how the life of a piece of produce would unfold long before it happens. It’s the promise of seeing what lies beyond the peel, of making the invisible in produce finally visible. Today, I’m proud to share that Apeel has acquired ImpactVision, a company that has developed a hyperspectral imaging platform and shares our vision of creating a better food system.
Through this acquisition, Apeel will now be able to integrate hyperspectral imaging technology into our supply chains, enabling us to provide new insights to our customers, both upstream and downstream, ranging from ripeness prediction to nutritional characteristics, even information on how the produce was grown; the very aspects that make every individual piece of fruit unique.
For too long, we’ve relied on manual, subjective, or even purely aesthetic methods of measurement to understand what lies under the peel, and approximated quality from the touch, taste, and feel of fruits and vegetables. In our endeavor to understand more, Apeel has been steadily building an arsenal of analytical tools to better measure quality and share those objective results with partners. Working with new eyes afforded by hyperspectral technology, we can continue on the path of building a deeper set of insights that enable a food system where we can waste less and feed more people.
We’ve begun work with our partners to upgrade Apeel application systems with hyperspectral camera capabilities, as we continue to develop the analytical and predictive tools enabled by this new data stream. Just imagine what we’ll see together: the past and present story of every piece of produce, an articulation of quality and value that is sharable from farm to kitchen; a way to predictably connect the way food is grown to the quality we experience in our homes.
What We’ll See
At Apeel, we foresee the ability to better manage the time every piece of fruit has, with benefits that accrue throughout the supply chain. In practice, fresh food suppliers and retailers would be able to make operational decisions that can result in higher-quality produce for shoppers, with less waste in the supply chain and on grocery store shelves, as well as in our homes.
Imagine feeling safe in the knowledge that the avocado in your fruit bowl is still good, or knowing the strawberries in your refrigerator won’t mold. Produce can be ripe when you’re ready, based on the information you received at purchase that will include formerly invisible produce characteristics, such as phytonutrient content. Taste and nutritional content can be revealed, then enjoyed as in the creaminess of your avocado or the tartness of your apple. After all, fruits and vegetables are a natural pharmacy, and it’s the health-benefiting small molecules in plant-based foods (known as phytonutrients) that hyperspectral technology from Apeel will make visible and discoverable.
At Apeel, we’re committed to asking questions, having started on this path with the question of what the lemon had to teach the strawberry. From the discovery of a plant-based solution to tackle the “tyranny of time” to the quest to see the invisible information inside every fruit and vegetable, we’re always seeking new answers. We can’t wait to share what we find out.
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