For farmers, a new spray makes produce last longer

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96b54907-b2ec-447f-9219-b903e2f429aaHave you ever gone into your fridge to grab that basket of strawberries or blueberries you bought a couple days ago, and discovered they’ve already started to go bad?

A new product created by scientists in Santa Barbara seeks to prevent that. Edipeel, created by Apeel Sciences, is a mico-thin peel that’s applied to fruit to protect the surface from oxidation and water loss. Katie Hershfelt met up with two of the product creators, Jenny Du and Chance Holland, to learn more.

Tell us about your product.

We break down plant waste like stems, leaves, seeds, peels, etc., and isolate a subset of molecules from that mixture that we can reformulate to spray back onto fresh produce to help it last longer.

So, you’re creating a spray made from the very fruit and vegetable you’re trying to preserve by adding back into it more of the life-extending properties that are found in those fruits and vegetables?

Nailed it!

How does it get applied?

You spray the formulation on as a liquid, and it dries on the surfaces of the fruits and vegetables. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it. For the berries, you can expect an additional 5-20 days. For something like an orange, you may get an additional month or more.

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Conveyor belt testing in January 2016. Photo: Jenny Du

What local farmers do you work with?

We work with Jay Ruskey of Goodland Organics with his caviar limes, and Santa Barbara Blueberries.

As a market shopper, I want to know what’s being sprayed on my produce. Are there any concerns about the safety of the product?

Right now, when you’re biting into an apple, you’re already eating a lot of this compound we’re isolating and reapplying to the surface. We’re trying to verify that by registering with the FDA for a category called Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS.

How do we find out it’s on our produce?

That’s something we’re working on right now. It’s kind of grower to grower. We’re dealing with it on a case by case basis.