Apeel adds $30M in new funding to help smallholder farmers join the global food system

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Apeel adds $30M in new funding to help smallholder farmers join the global food system

Apeel, a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer and a CNBC Disruptor 50, today announced $30M in new funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Temasek, and Astanor Ventures. Apeel will use its new funding and technology to help smallholder farmers in emerging markets, who suffer from some of the highest levels of food insecurity and waste, extend crop shelf life and gain access to new markets, including the U.S. and Germany. 

“It’s a misconception that people go hungry because we don’t grow enough food. The issue is the intermittency of supply and an inability to convert perishable assets into economic value,” said James Rogers, Founder and CEO of Apeel.

“The harsh reality is that it is nearly impossible today for most smallholder farmers to get their produce to a marketplace that will pay for it before it spoils. Apeel was founded on the belief that we can improve food security around the world by using technology to create opportunities for those who have limited or no access to the global food system. The new funding from IFC, Temasek, and Astanor will enable us to not only give smallholder farmers more time to market their fresh produce, but also greater access to higher-value markets previously out of reach because of inevitable perishability.”

In conjunction with IFC, Apeel’s new programs for smallholder farmers will lead to the establishment of Apeel-powered supply chains in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. 

Apeel’s technology will also be used to improve domestic supply chains, reducing food loss without the use of refrigeration, while increasing access to nutrition and improving domestic economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, informal retailers and consumers within developing countries. With decreased food loss and improved quality throughout the supply chain, smallholder farmers will be able to access new market opportunities previously out of reach without a cold infrastructure or means for rapid transport. 

“Innovative technologies can change the course of development in emerging markets and save livelihoods, economies, and in this case, food,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer, of IFC.

“We are excited to partner with Apeel to invest in a game-changing technology that can limit food waste by half, enhance sustainability, and mitigate climate change. By joining our forces and expertise, we will also help local farmers, distributors, and retailers preserve produce and expand exports to markets that were previously too far to reach.”

Supporting agribusiness and ag-tech innovation in emerging markets is a priority for IFC because of its potential for broad development impact and  strong role in reducing poverty. IFC combines investments and advisory services to help the sector address higher demand and escalating food prices in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive way.  As such, IFC invests across the agribusiness supply chain — from farm to retail — to help boost production, increase liquidity, improve logistics and distribution, and expand access to credit for small farmers.  

Smallholder farmers (SHFs) managing up to five hectares produce more than 50% of the global fruit supply, yet agricultural workers still make up 65% of all poor working adults and many smallholder farmers suffer from hunger and extreme poverty. Fresh fruits and vegetables offer SHFs much larger income opportunities than staple crops, and demand for fresh produce is increasing globally.

The challenge is that growing something valuable is only beneficial if the farmer can access a market with a buyer. Without access to a refrigerated supply chain, much of what a SHF produces can only reach small local markets where the supply of locally grown crops often far exceeds demand. Because of perishability, these market dynamics lead to systemic poverty, significant amounts of food loss and waste, and even food insecurity for those who make their livelihoods from farming.

“Finding solutions to food insecurity and food waste is one of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Kathleen Merrigan, PhD, partner at Astanor Ventures. “Apeel’s dedication and bold vision to tackle this problem using its revolutionary technology will transform the global food system, and the lives of smallholder farmers for the better. At Astanor, we look to back ambitious businesses who are creating systemic change in the food production and agriculture supply chains and we are excited to be part of Apeel’s mission to create a more secure and sustainable food future.”

Improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers has been core to Apeel’s mission since day one. Founded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government, Apeel’s plant-based technology was designed to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables produced by farmers without access to the refrigerated supply chains currently required to bring crops to market.

The company spent the next several years bringing the technology to scale and establishing a global supplier base and retail network. Today, Apeel produce is available nationwide in the United States, Germany and other countries across Europe, leading to a 50% reduction of food waste on U.S. and EU store shelves, while also extending shelf-life in home, where rates of food waste are three times as high as retail. With new funding in line with its mission, Apeel is one step closer to realizing its vision of creating a more participatory food system where access to fresh produce, which is a natural resource, is synonymous with economic opportunities for smallholder farmers.  

Please visit Apeel’s website for more information about Apeel’s smallholder farmer programs.

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