Apeel Sciences, the food waste technology company, has acquired hyperspectral imaging startup ImpactVision. This is Apeel’s first acquisition, and the Santa Barbara-based company says it stands to dramatically reduce the 40% of produce that’s wasted globally each year.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Apeel is known for its plant-based ‘peel’ product which can be applied to the outside of fruits and vegetables, doubling their shelf life.
San Francisco-based ImpactVision’s imaging tech will allow suppliers to see ‘inside’ their fresh produce to better understand its ripeness, freshness, nutritional density, and other indicators of quality. This could allow suppliers to know the exact ripening window for each individual fruit and vegetable, enabling them to sort and ship accordingly.
“[With this acquisition] 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 at Apeel.
“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.”
Rob Leclerc, founding partner at San Francisco-based VC firm AgFunder — an early backer of ImpactVision — said the acquired startup’s hyperspectral technology has “the ability to create a deep digital understanding of every fruit and vegetable ranging from ripeness prediction to nutritional signatures, and to address key issues of food waste.”
“Integrating with the Apeel platform is a great next step to realize the potential of this technology and bring better transparency and understanding to our food system,” he added.
Apeel’s core product is currently applied to fruits and vegetables using equipment the company has deployed in packing houses and distribution centers across the Americas and Europe. Apeel will implement ImpactVision’s imaging tech with this equipment to collect data-rich images as produce travels along conveyance lines. These images will then be processed through machine learning models that can identify unique visual cues that relate to freshness, degree of maturity, and other aspects of produce quality.
“When [ImpactVision’s] 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 ImpactVision.
Based on the US Department of Agriculture‘s estimate that between 30% and 40% of the country’s food supply goes to waste each year, a more robust and holistic understanding of produce quality will help growers and suppliers of fresh produce to reduce these losses by better optimizing distribution.
For example, if Apeel’s tech can let suppliers know the exact ripening window for each piece of fruit in a consignment, they can sort and ship that consignment to different geographical locations – ensuring retailers in each will receive produce with the longest possible shelf life.
Today, Apeel has 30 supplier integrations on three continents, with plans to double that number by the end of 2021. “With its imaging technology and positioning in the fresh food supply chain, Apeel is on a path to developing the largest and most comprehensive database of objective fresh produce insights for the global food industry,” the company claimed in a statement.
Since it was founded in 2012, Apeel has raised a total of $310 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Its most recent publicly reported fundraise saw it secure $30 million from Belgian VC Astanor Ventures, Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, and the World Bank‘s International Finance Corporation in October last year.
This followed its $250 million Series A round in May 2020, which was led by GIC — another Singapore sovereign fund — with a host of other investors, including celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry, participating.
ImpactVision had raised total funding of $2.8 million according to Crunchbase. Alongside AgFunder, its investors included agrifood specialist VCs Acre Venture Partners and The Yield Lab, as well as Maersk Growth – the corporate venturing arm of Danish shipping giant Maersk.