Sep 03, 2015

CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: MEET APEEL SCIENCES AND THEIR VP OF OPERATIONS JENNY DU

Apeel Sciences creates natural agricultural solutions for growers to protect their crops and increase the shelf life of harvested produce, reducing reliance on pesticides as well as food waste.

In the United States, over one third of all the food we grow is wasted, in part because fresh food spoils before we eat it. In the developing world, more than half of all produce is lost to spoilage before it can be consumed. Reducing food waste also reduces water and energy use and helps to preserve our natural ecosystems.

Apeel Sciences uses the parts of plants we don’t eat, like leaves and peels, to create a natural, invisible and tasteless ‘bio-peel’ that protects and camouflages the surface of fruits and vegetables from pests, oxidative damage, and water loss, significantly extending the life span of fresh produce.

Jenny Du is the VP of Operations at Apeel Sciences, where she facilitates and coordinates the efforts of the scientific and administrative divisions of the company. She also leads the ‘Invisipeel’ project, developing a platform for molecularly camouflaging the surfaces of fruits and vegetables, protecting them from invasion by pests. Jenny earned her bachelor’s degree in engineering chemistry and PhD in chemistry from Queen’s University, Canada, and carried out postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

To get to know Apeel Sciences and Jenny Du a little better, we asked her the following six questions:

You’ve got 30 seconds to pitch your company to an investor—let’s hear it: 
We create natural agricultural solutions for growers to protect their crops and increase the shelf life of harvested produce. Our goal is to help eliminate food waste and reduce reliance on pesticides.

What can you tell us about the initial start-up challenges you faced when launching the company?
It’s not trivial trying to nail down the first few investors. It took a lot of persistence on the part of our founder and CEO to seek out and establish strong relationships with those who would be a great strategic match for our company. We were very fortunate to have a seed grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help us build momentum in those early days.

If you knew then what you know now about starting a company, what would you have done differently?
Take more risks. The uncertainty of so many variables can at times seem overwhelming and instill doubt, but if you have strong partners, you soon realize that you learn the most (and most quickly!) by jumping in and putting your product out there to get that ‘real world’ feedback.

What’s the best advice you have for those looking to start a new biotech?
There will be plenty of challenges on the road to building your company, but surrounding yourself with great and talented people (coworkers, investors, mentors, and community partners) who truly believe in your mission and who are willing to work tirelessly to see the mission through will make all of the difference.

What is your view of the biotech landscape in your state and across the country?
Biotech for the agricultural industry is seeing tremendous growth with little sign of slowing down. There are big problems for which impactful solutions are currently lacking, and these problems are only being further compounded as we see firsthand the increased strain on our natural resources and ecosystems.

If you were a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
To be able to deter pests from our edible crops without the use of harsh biocidal agents that otherwise cause the collateral harm of wiping out the beneficial microorganisms and insects in our soil, water, and air.

For more information on Apeel Sciences, visit their website www. apeelsciences.com.