Rethinking the Produce Supply Chain

“When March hit, I changed the way that I shopped at the grocery store. I really paid a lot closer attention to exactly what I was buying, how long it was going to last.” Jess Vieira found herself in the same position as many of us when the Covid-19 pandemic reached the US: rethinking our grocery lists and how to make the most of each ingredient in our carts.

Jess Viera

Jess is the director of Sustainability at Apeel, a company that developed a plant-derived coating that's applied to fresh fruits and vegetables after they're harvested and extends their shelf life. “So, the fruits and vegetables lasted twice as long as in their fresh state.” She explains, “It does this by slowing down the rate of water loss and oxidation, which are the primary causes of spoilage with ingredients that are already in all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we're consuming on a regular basis.”

One of the impacts of Covid-19 has been disruptions throughout the food supply chain, but food waste has long been an issue for the industry. On episode 221 of Tech Bites, host Jennifer Leuzzi welcomed Viera along with Kirsten Van Fossen, the Head of Sustainability and Education projects at Galley Solutions, to discuss solutions to food waste that can ultimately help businesses with their bottom line.

Viera pointed to the fact that about $2.6 trillion ‘evaporates’ from the food system as waste, and explains that Apeel’s technology can be a solution to this problem. “We're really excited about what this can mean, not just for food waste throughout the supply chain, but also in consumers' homes, in really all different contexts, because, as you mentioned, oftentimes when there's even small disruptions to the food system – we've seen quite large ones with COVID – we don't really have the time to make the adjustments that we need to get food to the people who need it before it spoils.”

Apeel’s mission extends beyond reducing waste and mitigating the impacts that food waste has on climate change, but also to creating a more participatory food system. Viera explains that, “to use our product and the shelf life extension it creates, [enables] access for growers and suppliers across the globe to trade lanes that they otherwise may not have been able to reach. So, we're really excited about this new funding that will help us accelerate the establishment of these Apeel powered supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and several parts of Central and South America.”

Furthermore, she hopes for a future where eaters have more information about the impact of their purchasing and consumption decision. “We see a real opportunity to connect consumers to their food by having a better understanding of the entire supply chain…. We believe that in the future, there will be ways to put data in the hands of consumers, too, so we can make some of these decisions for ourselves.” 

To learn more about Apeel, listen to episode 221 of Tech Bites.


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