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The food preservation tech company Apeel, which was founded eight years ago in Santa Barbara by UCSB grad James Rogers, raised $250 million in the latest round of financing.
New support for the company’s technology, which uses plant-based applications to extend the shelf life of produce, comes from celebrities Oprah Winfrey, who lives in Montecito, and Katy Perry, who was raised in Goleta and also co-owns Bragg Live Food, another Santa Barbara company. They actually supported the company in a previous round of funding, but are being made public now.
“I hate to see food wasted, when there are so many people in the world who are going without,” said Winfrey in a press release. “Apeel can extend the life of fresh produce, which is critical to our food supply and our planet too.”
The company, which is now valued at more than $1 billion, aims to save 20 million pieces of fruit and vegetables in 2020, by applying a layer of protection that does not require refrigeration yet can double or triple their shelf life. The technology is primarily aimed at increasing value and decreasing waste for the North American and European agricultural systems, but is also being used in humanitarian initiatives around Africa and in Central and South America.
This latest round of funding was led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, whose assets are valued at $440 billion. Other investors in this round included Viking, Upfront, and Tao.
Though the funding round closed before the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a connection. “The recent disruptions we’ve seen have put an intense spotlight on the need for greater sustainability in the global food system as a whole,” said Apeel spokesperson Michelle Masek. “This funding enables us to accelerate our efforts to improve resilience across the supply chain while it works to rebuild, and provide a better path forward now and into the future.”
The company has long worked with Good Land Organics in Goleta to treat caviar limes with the technology, although it is hard to find any Apeel-enhanced products in Santa Barbara stores. That should change in time.
“We’re working hard to bring Apeel produce to more store shelves and foodservice channels around the world, including our hometown, while also focusing on increasing accessibility of fresh produce to markets and communities who need it most,” said Masek.
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