2016 Food+City Challenge Prize Finalists


47farms

Brings many benefits to farmers, consumers, institutional buyers, local economies and the environment. We link farms with various types of buyers located closest to them. We do this by finding a match between the two locations in any geographical area using a mileage radius to define the proximity threshold. Because we offer services to both institutional buyers and end consumers we can offer more insights on food transparency, food safety and food security within local markets. We shorten the supply chain by optimizing the distance between the buyer and the seller. We do not own inventory, warehouses, or trucks. By shortening the supply chain 47farms eliminates waste, thereby reducing negative environmental impacts. We boost local economies by increasing consumer access and awareness of healthy foods. 47farms as a platform has the capability to add all farms in our country, forming webs of local food hubs very quickly and efficiently.

+ Q&A with 47farms

Why are you interested in food?

  • My son Nicky was diagnosed with Asthma caused by severe allergies and would be hospitalized up to 4x a year during his toddler years. After about a year of daily medications with no end in sight we started making significant changes to his diet, we moved away as much as possible from processed foods and more into whole foods. We started buying directly from local farmers and we made significant changes as a family to what we eat. We noticed a remarkable difference, eventually the hospitalizations were no longer necessary and all medications were no longer required. I gained a heightened awareness about the US food system and the interrelated issues resulting from the highly processed foods we consume in the US.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • Individual choices about eating are critical to your health. However, individual choices are made within a system that influences what is available. The U.S. food system influences what foods are in the marketplace, which are most affordable, and what types of venues are accessible for people to purchase food. Knowing where your food comes from and what choices are available to you will make you an informed consumer with added health benefits to you and your family.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • I am inspired by Steve Jobs because he was focused on building better products for his customers, he defied the odds and the naysayers at a time when his vision of the future went against conventional wisdom. I believe the US food industry is in dire need of innovation such as those delivered by Steve Jobs in many industries including publishing, radio, music, electronics, computers, phones and more. I’m also inspired by Steve Jobs because I am convinced we can use his innovations in mobile information technology to disrupt the entire Food Industry.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • Education and awareness for consumers that are influenced by powerful marketing dollars from big corporations and lack of government support. Market / Capital access to innovators and entrepreneurs like us.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • In order to persevere we have to keep reinventing ourselves, constantly trying out new things and accepting failures as valuable lessons that only make us that much better. But we have to do this in a way that is sustainable, otherwise we will be out of business in no time.

Agruppa

Is a service for small-scale food vendors in poor urban areas of Latin America that leverages mobile phone technology to create virtual buyer groups in order to improve access to fresh and healthy food for everyone. Starting in Bogota, Colombia, our system aggregates demand for fresh fruit and vegetables from small vendors, creating daily collective orders that add up to wholesale quantities. Clear economies of scale mean these orders can be purchased at prices significantly below what those vendors currently pay when sourcing individually. By bulk buying from farmers and cooperatives and delivering produce directly to vendors’ stores, Agruppa reduces supply chain inefficiencies, lowers the cost of fresh produce, and saves vendors the time and money currently spent traveling to inconvenient central markets. As a result, vendors are economically empowered and those living in low-income communities benefit from sustainable access to nutritious food at lower prices.

+ Q&A with agruppa

Why are you interested in food?

  • We believe that food should be a basic human right--and we don't mean plain rice, but a varied diet of fresh and healthy food. Today, we produce enough food so that it's possible to feed the world well. Hence, the failure to do so is a matter of distribution and affordability, not availability. There is clearly something wrong here. And as people who, well, just love food, this upsets us enough to want to do something about it.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • That food is a product of nature and thus varies every day. Today the potato is smaller, tomorrow it's bigger and next week it will be wonky--but each of these potatoes is equally valuable, tasty and beautiful in its own way. Of course people know that, but we wish our customers would place less importance on perfect looks alone.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • We are inspired by anyone who has successfully used mobile technology for something greater than games and whatsapp, especially in the food and agricultural sector--like Agromall in Colombia or M-Farm in Keya, amongst many others. In addition, we are also inspired by companies who have taken perishable food logistics to a new level, like large supermarket chains, such as Carrefour, Cencosud, some local ones like Carulla, Exito, and Olimpica, among others.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • The biggest challenge to feeding future generations is availability and access to information to coordinate logistics as to ensure that none of the food produced in the world is wasted, but rather consumed by the people who need it most. In other words, there needs to be enough information about supply and demand so that food distribution can be coordinated in a way that supply chains are efficient and food arrives at affordable prices for all.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • A sack of potato is really quite a mystery--you never know what you'll find inside.

BENTO + PICNIC

Makes it easy for you to enjoy a healthy local lunch. We are Austin’s chef-owned bento shop offering healthy, ready-to-eat lunches made from local, seasonal ingredients.  In the bento tradition of Japanese homemakers, we cook everything from-scratch and compose beautiful boxed lunches. Each lunch includes healthy portions of the week’s freshest local vegetables, your choice of protein, and a gluten-free starch neatly packed in a recyclable bento box.  We specialize in catering events of all sizes, and we are always open to accept requests at bentopicnic.com. For a healthy alternative to fast food, Austinites can also order BENTO + PICNIC on-demand through Favor Delivery!  Ultimately we aim to serve markets across the country, each procuring ingredients from their local farms, effectively scaling the local food movement nationally through the efficiencies of our model. We are a zero food waste operation, so we will help eliminate food waste as we grow.

+ Q&A with Bento + Picnic

Why are you interested in food?

  • There are few things that have as much direct impact on the quality of our day-to-day life as food.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • We all have the power and potential to be creators and change agents of the food system by learning how to cook resourcefully, and then teaching others once we learn. Maximizing nutrients and minimizing waste are essential life skills for empowered stewards of our food ecosystem, especially in our increasingly populated society. An amazing resource for learning cooking fundamentals is Rouxbe.com.

What other companies and leaders inspire you and why?

  • As mentioned above Rouxbe.com is advancing the quality of online culinary instruction to unprecedented levels. Ken Rubin and Chad Sarno are on their senior leadership team, and they're both friends of Bento + Picnic, so we've been keeping a close eye on their development -- Even with exponential growth they haven't lost an ounce of integrity. We are forever grateful to award-winning cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh for the wealth of wisdom she has taught us about Japanese culinary methodology. Without her early and on-going support, Bento + Picnic would not be what it is today.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • In order for future generations to be able to feed themselves, they must be able to cook. Educating and empowering cooks is required to reverse our dependency on nutrient-deficient, processed foods. At Bento + Picnic, we are addressing this challenge by providing culinary training and organizational support to our kitchen staff so they can lead the way in making from-scratch, farm-fresh, nutrient-dense foods more available and accessible within our fast food culture.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • The expense of real estate has been the most surprising/challenging thing. It led us to develop our own road map for a sustainable mobile/online business model.

Crickers

Makes healthy, sustainable snack foods with cricket flour in Austin, TX. Our mission is to normalize the consumption of insects in the Western world as a sustainable protein alternative. In a society where consuming insects is considered culturally taboo, we make this age-old practice approachable and delicious through incorporating cricket flour into familiar, everyday foods. Crickers is a community oriented business committed to educational outreach on edible insect and food system issues. We deliver delicious products that cater to those with specific diets, such as Paleo, ketogenic, and gluten, dairy, and soy-free. Our signature product is our crackers, the first edible insect crackers in the world that take advantage of the underdeveloped savory side of the edible insect market and the rise of salty snack food trends. Crickers plans to revolutionize grocery store aisles with a line of nutritious and delicious snack foods that are good for people and the planet.

+ Q&A with crickers

Why are you interested in food?

  • Food is a powerful connector that can unite people of all different backgrounds. We see food as a creative outlet, as an expression to show our love and care for those around us, and as something that can take us back to happy memories and places in time. We’re always getting excited about what the next meal will be, and find a lot of joy and connection in the steps of growing, preparing, and sharing food. We dream of a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate society, and we hope to contribute to that goal through our snack foods.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • There’s no way to be a perfect steward of the environment, but our daily food choices have the potential to affect positive change on an unsustainable system. With some dedication, creativity, and awareness that our individual actions have an impact on others and on the planet that we share, we can create a paradigm shift. Don’t be afraid to do something new and go against the status quo. For example, eating bugs in the US may not be mainstream yet, but the more people give it a try, the more it will catch on and create a broader positive impact.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • We’re inspired by people all around the globe working to create a more sustainable and just food system. Some of the leaders include include Vandana Shiva, whose work to support biodiversity, indigenous knowledge in agriculture, and women farmers is admirable. We’re inspired by new generations of young farmers dedicating their lives to growing healthy food for their communities. We admire Deb Eschmeyer and her commitment to making healthy eating fun and engaging in classrooms, cafeterias, and school gardens for youth across America. We’re also inspired by fellow Austin companies who are committed to creating healthy foods with sustainable and fair-trade practices, including Happy Hemp, Great Bean Chocolate, Thunderbird Energetica, and Ten Acre Organics.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • Having enough resources to feed a growing world population of 9 billion people is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations. Because edible insects are a highly sustainable, healthy, and culturally significant food source, we see entomophagy (or the practice of eating bugs) as an important part of solving this growing concern.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Since starting Crickers, we’ve learned how important it is to set goals, but to also have the flexibility to be able to constantly pivot and adapt the plan as needed. Having a mind open to changes and also the grit to keep forging ahead is essential.

THE FOOD CORRIDOR

Is the first online marketplace for food entrepreneurs to find commercial kitchen space. Food entrepreneurs can find and book commercial kitchens, commissaries, processing, co-packing and food storage spaces. Commercial kitchen owners can more effectively utilize their assets, providing additional revenue streams to schools, food banks, churches, restaurants and more. THE FOOD CORRIDOR provides online booking, payment processing, disbursement, and reviews within a seamless, efficient marketplace. 

+ Q&A with The Food Corridor

Why are you interested in food?

  • Food unites humanity, connecting us all to each other. Working in the food system fuses the disciplines of nutrition, sociology, economics, agricultural science, environmental studies, and public policy. It is challenging, dynamic work in need of modern day solutions to ensure sustainable, just, economically viable, community-based food systems.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • Technology plays a central role in the conversation about food and shouldn't be demonized. Peer-to-peer sharing, traceability, sensors, and enterprise software are just a few of the ways technology is catalyzing a flexible, resilient and sustainable food system. With food tech as a catalyst, the possibility of an interconnected web of localised food systems within a bigger global food system is within reach.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • I started The Food Corridor after taking Uber for the first time. The User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) was seamless, exciting, and groundbreaking. I also admire ShareTribe's content marketing; Airbnb's branding; and Thumbtack's growth strategies. Finally, I am inspired by female founder Jacqueline Ros of Revolar for being a smart, visionary, and humble CEO.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • Talking about the future of food often leads to an echo chamber of polarization, idealization, and blame that hinders progress and stomps out viable solutions. We must not let perfection be the enemy of the good. We need to activate the tools in our tool box and measure risk and reward realistically if we want to ensure that all people have access to safe, sustainable and healthy food.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Go overboard with customer service. We are happy to spend hours on the phone with people to help us understand their pain points and build a product that they want and need.

Eat At Home

Busy college students and young professionals don't have time to cook anymore, eating too much restaurant foods. They lack easy access to the most tasty, fresh and authentic food, which is homemade.  Eat At Home enables them to use the same fast and cheap concept of restaurant for homemade food.  Eat At Home is a marketplace, website and mobile app, which connects people looking for homemade foods, THE DINERS, with people passionate for cooking, THE COOKS.  This is how it works: Eat At Home diner finds the cook nearby and connects to him. After the diner goes to the cook`s house, picks up the food and leave, the meal price transfers from the diner`s bank account to the cook's bank account. A percentage goes to Eat At Home.

+ Q&A with eat at home

Why are you interested in food?

  • Cooking is my biggest passion.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • Elon Musk, who was successful selling electric cars, even though other before him had failed. His success made me realize that although other people before me have failed to make a business selling homemade food through a shared economy work, it doesn’t mean I will also fail. I can learn from other's mistakes to create a better product.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • As the world population continues to grow, it will be a challenge to naturally produce enough food for everyone.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • The number of people who have helped or supported me in someway. From friends to people I'd never met before, who all believe we will help people have easier access to the most fresh, tasty, authentic, homemade food.

Garbage to Garden

Farm-to-Table-to-Farm - Awareness and access to local and organic food is on the rise. This trend leads us to believe that caring about where our food comes from will evolve into caring about where our food waste goes. Supporting the Farm-to-Table movement is the first step; keeping food waste out of landfills and returning it to the farm is the second.  Garbage to Garden, located in Portland, ME, is the most successful self-funded, market-based curbside composting company in the United States, servicing over 5,000 households, schools, restaurants, businesses and events in 8 Southern Maine communities. How it Works: For $14 a month, once a week on garbage day, we swap household buckets at the curb for a fresh, clean bucket - and, if requested, a bag of MOFGA (Maine's USDA Accredited Organic Certifier) certified organic compost at no extra cost.   Our subscribers feel good about doing right by the environment and helping to close the loop, one bucket at a time.

+ Q&A with garbage to garden

Why are you interested in food?

  • Who isn’t interested in food? We love food! But in this context, at Garbage to Garden, we’re most interested in educating people about why it’s important to waste less food and to utilize organic material as the resource that it is, instead of letting it become an environmental liability.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • Approximately 40 percent of food in the U.S. ends up in landfills where it becomes a significant source of methane, with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. As a result, food waste in landfills is the third-largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, behind industry and agriculture.

    Yikes, right?

    The good news is that Food Waste is a hot topic right now, so there are a growing number of organizations and consciousness raising movements that are helping to reduce food waste and divert good food to those who need it.

    Our Garbage to Garden community knows that we are helping to facilitate the other piece of the equation, one that makes it easy for communities to do the right thing with dead flowers, the inevitable apple cores and banana peels and whatever else might be shriveled up in the back of your refrigerator.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • I’m inspired by those for whom failure isn’t an option; those who are driven by an unwavering faith. Although there are certainly many contemporary examples of this type of leader, I look to history for inspiration.

    As the story goes, Thomas Edison had attempted a thousand iterations to make a working lightbulb and nothing had worked; it was said that he and his team had failed. Undeterred, Edison stated that they had not failed at all -- they had succeeded in finding a thousand ways that don’t work! The idea that with persistence, there can be no failure, is a concept resonates with me and feeds my constant optimism.

    Faith drives persistence, and it also quiets fear and enhances focus and confidence. Andrew Carnegie started out in life making $1.20/week in a cotton mill and over time was able to build a steel manufacturing empire that dramatically reduced the cost of steel rails for everyone and made possible the cities, railroads and standard of living that we've come to enjoy. Carnegie succeeded so dramatically from his humble beginnings due to his focus on the means rather than the ends; his philosophy was “Do your duty and a little more and the future will take care of itself.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • There's only so much organic matter on the planet and soil is being depleted faster than it’s being regenerated. As a culture, we’ve got to change our habits and, as Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says, we need to recognize that the maintenance or enhancement of global soil resources is essential if humanity’s need for food, water, and energy security is to be met.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Two things come to mind as it pertains to tackling the challenge of Food Waste: First, it’s surprising to see just how much food is wasted. We’re incredibly grateful that our community is choosing to compost what they consider food “waste” instead of throwing it in a landfill, but we see an awful lot of perfectly good food in our bins. We certainly see an opportunity to continue to provide our community with resources to reduce waste.

    But you know what is incredible? People are absolutely willing to separate organic material from their recycling and trash if we make it easy for them. Not only that, our community loves to brag about how little trash they generate. One clever Garbage to Garden-er posted an image on instagram of the one bag of trash that they’d generated over the past four weeks. They not only used the #humblebrag hashtag, they they came up with the idea of the #trashbrag. How great is that!

    So while we recognize that collectively, we can always work to waste less, it's inspiring that these nutrients are being enthusiastically returned to the earth instead of ending up in a landfill. Because, as we like to say, a rind is a terrible thing to waste.


“GO FRESH!” PRODUCTS

Picture this; you walk into H-E-B right into the fruit aisle. There they are; the perfect yellow bunch of bananas complete with green stems. You can already taste them in your cereal, in your smoothie as well as by themselves. Now, fast forward a week. You walk into the kitchen - ready to eat those yummy bananas. You spot them; dark brown, black spots, mushy and ready to be thrown away. What if you could make those same bananas last twice as long? At "Go Fresh!", we want to help families and restaurant owners waste less food and save more money by preserving the life of fruits of vegetables, making them last longer and taste fresher.   Everyone knows that "One bad apple spoils the bunch," but why is that? Fruits and vegetables emit ethylene gas that you can’t see or smell, but causes food to spoil. Our product is an object that is placed next to produce. The device absorbs ethylene gas which allows fruits and vegetables to stay fresh for longer periods of time and extends the life of produce. Go Fresh! Waste Less!


J.W. Hunt Organics

If you are not familiar with hemp as a food source, it is one of the healthiest natural seeds that exist in Nature. hemp has been a friend of Humanity for hundreds of years, during which time it has been utilized to make everything from clothing to paint and building materials. The Declaration of Independence was even written on hemp paper! What's most exciting about hemp, however, is its use as sustenance. Each individual hemp seed contains up to 33% protein, higher than any other seed in nature. In addition, hempseed "hearts" are also high in dietary fiber and have an ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, making them a perfect food for health nuts. Oil pressed from the seed supports heart and cardiovascular function, and also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Unfortunately, hemp is not widely available as a food source due to a lack of education. J.W. Hunt Organics is here to change that by introducing America to a truly healthy and sustainable food in hemp.

+ Q&A with j.w. hunt organics

Why are you interested in food?

  • Food is everything. Food affects nearly every aspect of our lives, from our daily health to the way we interact with our families to our national security as a country. Today is an incredibly important time in history. Our future is uncertain. We are using up our resources at an incredibly alarming rate. Sooner or later, something’s got to give. Our generation has inherited an incredibly wide range of social, economic, and environmental issues. Food is the one area that affects each and every one of us on a personal, day-to-day level. We understand we need to be the change we want to see in the world, and that is why our mission is to educate and inspire people about what food--hemp in particular--can do for the world.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • We believe it is vital for everyone, especially our customers, to understand the dramatic toll that the current food system takes on the environment. Industrial agriculture sucks up 70% of the world’s fresh water supply. We use close to a billion pounds of pesticides on our crops every year, and we still don’t fully understand the health and environmental impact of many of these chemicals. This is exactly why we promote the cultivation of environmentally friendly agricultural crops, crops like hemp, which require less fresh water, produce more food per acre, and require little to no pesticides to grow.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • We took a great deal of inspiration from Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, the two founders of Honest Tea. Their business model states that “as we innovate, we grow our sales--and as sales grow, so does our impact”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Another sustainability-minded leader who has impacted our company is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Mr. Chouinard showed us all how a company can make the world a better place and be profitable at the same time. All of these individuals have shaped our company’s identity. As we continue forward we hope to live up to their ideals, both as individuals and as an organization.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • Sustainability. Now more than ever the food industry needs change. We need to feed more people than ever before with dwindling resources and an ongoing environmental crisis. The only way to avoid huge food shortages in the future is for us to change our methods of food production now. We need to reduce waste, discover better methods of farming, and start planting crops, like hemp, that use less water and yield more calories per acre.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • The most surprising lesson that we’ve learned since starting up has been the massive amount of misinformation out there about both hemp food products and health foods in general. Many people have no idea what hemp is and even worse some people associate hemp with its notorious cousin, marijuana. Even though hemp contains no psychoactive components (i.e. it won’t get you high) and you cannot fail a drug test by consuming hemp products, many people still have reservations about using it as a food source. This is why our primary goal as a company has become educating people about the benefits of adding hemp to their diets, and how this amazing, versatile crop is helping to bring innovation to both the food and agricultural industries.

LUNCHBENE

During the busy workweek, it is difficult for employees to ensure they have the healthy meals they need to fuel their productivity. Lunchbene can help. Lunchbene provides an online platform and mobile app that employees can use to manage their weekly meal plan, especially lunches during the week. Lunchbene is built on scientific research findings focused on improving health. Employees sign into their private Lunchbene account to plan their meals for the upcoming week. This might involve ordering from a nearby retailer or local vendor, purchasing from their company’s internal cafeteria, or specifying a packed lunch from home. Not only does Lunchbene benefit its users, but also the stakeholders within its network. With advanced notice of users’ orders and additional platform functionality, food businesses can tailor to personalized health needs, prevent food waste and gain a direct line of communication with the local workforce. This is just one example. The list of stakeholder benefits continues.

+ Q&A with lunchbene

Why are you interested in food?

  • I think about food often. As a student-athlete, I spend a lot of time concentrating on food as fuel for both my mind and body. Since I started researching food and health as a PhD candidate, I have realized that everyone thinks about food, a lot. Food connects people across the globe—it is a subject that we all relate to in some way. We all have to eat. Our food system is the place where we can make significant transformations to health because it is such a substantial meeting point for the world. Whether it be to prevent chronic diseases or curb environmental degradation or foster labor relations, the food system provides the canvas to address a whole range of challenges.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • I want everyone to understand that the individual consumer has power too! Sometimes it is easy to feel like our choices as an individual consumer are not going to influence change in the behemoth that is our food system. However, the actions of individual consumers add up and send signals to industry that there is need for a particular product or service. Before we act in the marketplace, I wish we could remember this and consider the signals we are sending about what we want our future food system to look like.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • Emily Broad Leib, Jamie Oliver and Sean Duffy of Omada Health are three leaders who inspire me. All demonstrate persistence and innovation in the pursuit of their goals—Emily Broad Leib as she runs the Harvard Law School’s Food Law & Policy program, which she pioneered; Jamie Oliver as he campaigns for a healthy food environment, demonstrated early on by the work he put into improving school meals; and Sean Duffy as he leads Omada Health, the idea and now company that persuaded him to take time out from his Harvard MD/MBA program. A 2012 digital therapeutics start-up that aims to prevent chronic disease, Omada Health changes the way we think about delivering care and proves that less traditional approaches are effective. It is great when individuals or companies introduce ideas that challenge our thinking!

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • The biggest challenge will be effective collaboration. It is a huge challenge getting all of the necessary groups and people to back a comprehensive strategy forward for feeding future generations. There are many ideas out there about how we can feed future generations—tackling food waste, shifting to sustainable diets, genetically engineering foods, to list a few—but similar to confronting climate change, feeding future generations will require a collective approach.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • I have learned how critical it will be to efficiently filter external comments and criticisms about my start-up. When explaining my idea, I have encountered enthusiastic support, and also the skepticism of naysayers. I will continue to work out which comments I can consider and which I can dismiss. Simultaneously, I will remind myself that regardless of how my start-up evolves, the seed of a promising venture is there.

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MoFlo Aeroponics

We develop and manufacture our Patented Vertical Aeroponics Plant Growing Systems for use in the commercial and personal growing markets. We are a woman owned business and the only US company to have a Utility Patent on Vertical Aeroponic Grow Wall Technology. Early efforts in Vertical Farming have mainly adapted existing flat growing systems, stacked trays on shelves, to meet the vertical farming model. Crops have been limited due to system restrictions on plant size. We have engineered a versatile production system designed for vertical agriculture which allows for larger rooting structures to grow a wider range of crops including blooming and fruiting varieties. The core strength of our company is our understanding of the business of farming, the challenges to the status quo and the different approaches available. Our ability to translate that knowledge into a viable series of products provides us an immediate and ongoing advantage in the marketplace.

+ Q&A with moflo aeroponics

Why are you interested in food?

  • In 1998 we became aware of the Roundup Ready tomato and the other work being done to genetically modify food crops. We thought that you could get similar results by optimizing the growing environment rather that modifying the plant itself.

What is one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • We offer an affordable version of aeroponics that is simplified and user friendly.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • We have been inspired by: Dickson Despommier--For his vision; Green Spirit Farms--We really like Milan and Dan Kluko and admire their common sense approach to vertical farming; Penney Poyzer--For her social awareness and reminding us that we are simply trying to make sure that everyone has enough to eat.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • As the food supply localizes, the competition for space, water and power will be the biggest challenge.

What is the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you’ve learned since starting your project?

  • Understanding the challenges to the status quo and the need to educate the market has been our biggest challenge.

Piggy Bank

Is a genetic sanctuary that enables responsive solutions for emerging farmers and social communities. Our goal is to provide unlicensed access to genetics and business plans to small family farmers. The foundation to Piggy Bank’s success is sustaining a community that promotes transparency through the sharing of data, information, and farming practices which will inspire better business for those encountering the network of information. In short, we hope to become a model that can be copied, shared and free for people to build upon.

+ Q&A with piggy bank

Why are you interested in food?

  • From a young age flavor was my friend. After school specials weren’t special enough without a couple blended sauces from the fridge to accompany snack time. My mom was a cookbook enthusiast, we had a den covered in Martha Stewart, Lee Bailey and Julia Childs, going through them was a great way to read something that was not homework and had an instant return. My mom and dad are amazing cooks, mom on the creative explored route and my dad taking the baking sweet expert recipe testing journey, together I learned about good food and that patience and fun were requirements in the kitchen. If it had flavor, I would indulge and over time, my experiences and travels would lead me to where I am today. A very fortunate consumer of fine foods and delightful beverage.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • I wish they all the food comes from and how to spot a honest producer / product amongst the junk. I wish they knew how to source and feed their families and friends safe food. I wish they all knew all that I know about the heritage pork industry and how they can make a difference with just a couple simple decisions each year.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • Heritage Breed Pig Farmers, Chefs & Entrepreneurs inspire me. They work harder than most people I know and most of them have chosen to blaze a path without any type of roadmap. I feel kind of the same. I look at business leaders and I really respect those who have created something out of nothing from starting with a grain of salt or just an idea. My hat is tilted to the folks who were able to take a truly genuine and authentic idea and make a business out of it. It’s remarkable to me when it grows and scales to meet the expanding needs of the market.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • Sourcing Safe Food and Education.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • One day a friend Doug Hill from Hill Family Estate Wines said to me that I was “perfect with patience,” and still today this day it was one of the most surprising / amazing comments to me. The comment took place following a seminar where I was delivering a discussion to a group of people on how to pair these stunning wines with artisan cheeses and some guests in the back kept chattering while others were trying to learn. Since that comment, I have have always tried to remember and share that with others. Today it rings true with running and growing a business, there must be patience. The hardest lesson is how to hire great people and that cloning of myself is more difficult than I expected.

Real Food Solutions

Uses existing clinical research to create food-based remedies for everyday ailments and discomforts. Our team out of MIT and Harvard is creating a whole line of products for common ailments like gut health, mental health, and others. Our first product, Anchor Nutrition Bar, prevents and relieves nausea from motion sickness, morning sickness, and other causes. Anchor Nutrition Bar, formulated in conjunction with Dr. Rupa Mukherjee, Harvard Medical School faculty gastroenterologist, is based on scientific research that links protein, ginger, and certain vitamins to nausea relief. The patent-pending bar is a practical solution for nausea – healthy, no side-effects, convenient, and drug-free. We launched Anchor Nutrition Bar in May 2015, and it is currently available in over 40 locations, including 15 ferry and cruise boats, marine and sporting shops like national chain Bass Pro Shops, natural grocery stores, and online.

+ Q&A with real food solutions

Why are you interested in food?

  • Food links all humans around the world - past, present and future - together in a common thread. Producing food provides great opportunities to contribute to preserving the environment. And most importantly, it can be our elixir when we need it, helping to alleviate our most common everyday discomforts.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • It’s so complex! We think the shift towards healthy, whole, organic foods isn’t just about weight or the environment; it’s a lifestyle move away from highly processed foods, particularly as our modern diet is adversely affecting our health.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • I admire what Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek, and Impossible Foods are doing. They're really creating more sustainable and healthier options for our palates and the planet.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • The more we live in urban centers, lead more sedentary lives, and age, the easier it is for us to become complacent with taking a pill to resolve everyday discomforts or address our broader health conditions. Food-based solutions are necessary to ease this tide, and provide urban citizens the healthy solutions they need to thrive.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Great ideas come and go. Producing great products, learning from and educating customers, and executing a vision are really what make great ideas come to life.

Regrub

161.6 Billion dollars, that’s how much America loses because of food waste annually. Statistics from the Department of Agriculture say that your own family loses 1500 dollars just out of the food you don’t eat. We can help people stop wasting food, and that is what our company is all about. Regrub is a waste management kit that utilizes the natural lifecycle of the Soldier fly to turn food waste into either a usable fertilizer, feed for animals, or prepares it so waste management facilities can dispose of it much easier. Our company would grow the grubs and send out “starting kits” of various sizes based on the amount needed to keep up with the food wasted.


RoboButcher

Merges the time-worn practice of whole animal butchery with the sharing economy of the 21st century by enabling small independent craft butchers to profitably sell locally-raised animals at near wholesale prices to a community of customers while accommodating individual meat consumption preferences.

 


St. Louis MetroMarket (STLMM)

Is a non-profit mobile farmers’ market that will restore access to healthy foods in all St. Louis area food deserts. The STLMM has transformed a donated city bus into a grocery store on wheels to bridge physical, financial, and educational barriers in food deserts in order to have the greatest potential towards increasing the supply and demand for healthy foods in these low-income, high-need communities. Specifically, the STLMM will provide direct access to fresh and affordable produce, meat, and staple goods and advocate on the behalf of these communities on issues related to food justice, hunger, and health.

+ Q&a with St. Louis MetroMarket

Why are you interested in food?

  • St. Louis MetroMarket firmly believes access to healthy food should be equitable. Learning that this was far from the case in St. Louis was what first interested our founders in food and food justice.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • StLMM wishes that our customers recognized how important it is to support local farmers and growers. Most of our customers do believe this, but we'd love to be able to help all of our customer's understand the importance of local food.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • StLMM strongly admires the work being done in our nation's capital by DC Central Kitchen. They are a community-based organization that works to solve food insecurity though a multi-pronged approach. We are also huge fans of Chicago-based Fresh Moves. As an organization, they inspired us to pursue a similar mobile market approach in St. Louis and their leadership have provided us with immense guidance and mentorship.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • StLMM believes the biggest challenge to feeding future generations will be resource limitations. Already, in areas where surplus food supplies exist, access to healthy food is not equitably distributed. As non-renewable resources continue to dwindle, feeding future generations will become more difficult and even less equitably distributed.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • We at StLMM have gained a profound appreciation for the demand for fresh, healthy food in the food desert communities we strive to serve. The demand is there. We hope to combine improved access to nutritious food with educational outreach to better serve these communities.

Steak TzarTzar

Develops mass rearing of grasshoppers for human consumption.  Insects in general and grasshoppers in particular are a healthy, sustainable and affordable protein alternative from animal sources.  Grasshoppers, already consumed by over 1 billion people worldwide are considered a delicacy. Currently, grasshoppers are harvested in the wild and are therefore only available seasonally for about 4-6 weeks a year while market prices are skyrocketing.  Steak TzarTzar's solution makes grasshoppers available 12 months a year, at affordable prices for populations in Africa, Asia and Central America to ensure better food quality.

+ Q&A with steak tzartzar

Why are you interested in food?

  • The three founders of Steak TzarTzar share the same passion - Making the world a better and healthier place for children by providing better nutrition.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • We hope our customers know the products we provide for them are the healthiest alternative for both them and the planet.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • We are inspired by an Israeli organization called "Innovation:Africa." Their goal is to provide local Africans the most basic needs such as clean water and energy.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • The greatest challenge is the need to change our habits, from being consumers mostly focused on our own personal needs to being responsible consumers focused on our global needs. This is true for every single person and for entire countries.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • We learned two very interesting and important things trying to introduce a new industry field: Understanding and accepting other populations' habits and traditions is key. When introducing Steak TzarTzar to people in the west, we almost always have to deal with the "yuck" factor and find it hard to convince investors about the potential of the business in the developing world. When introducing Steak TzarTzar to people in the developing world we realize how much we don't know about their habits and traditions and we always need to learn more in order to fit our product to their market.

TASTEGRAPHY

We believe that everyone is unique. We believe that everyone deserves a unique personalized solution. Companies like Netflix and Pandora are revolutionizing their industries through personalized data and we wanted to do the same with food. So, we created an app, "Tasty", that constantly learns the food likes, dislikes, and dietary restrictions of each user, to recommend them the restaurant dishes around them that they would enjoy the most. The secret sauce is in our patent-pending technology that leverages our extensive research on food science, taste data, and real-time analytics of our users' behaviors and "taste profiles". The same technology and algorithm that gives recommendations to users, extracts taste insights that we sell to food establishments and manufacturers to improve the experience they provide to their customers.  We are enabling the people that are responsible for providing our food experiences to make sure they cater to our every need.

+ Q&A with Tastegraphy

Why are you interested in food?

  • The three of us love food and technology. Our team is from all parts of the world: India, Spain, and Bulgaria. In our cultures, food is an intrinsic part of our lives. As engineers, we are fascinated in understanding what makes something delicious for one person over another. We believe that everyone is unique, and through understanding each person's uniqueness, we can start quantifying taste and taste preferences.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • Since our customers are CPG companies, we wish they understood that they themselves are causing the "analysis paralysis" that is hurting their industry. As more consumers enter the market from newer generations, there is a growing base of people who are less brand-loyal and more does-it-fit-my-needs-loyal. Different customers have different needs and CPGs are wasting time and resources by putting out a wealth of SKUs that are not connecting with their audience in hopes of finding the ones that are successful. They need to change the way their process works and incorporate more and more technology and data to become more efficient. They need to start reacting to consumer's actions instead of speculating on their behavior; and the way to do that is with live, accurate, trending food data directly from the consumers' themselves.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • Localeur: Starting a B2C platform in Austin not an easy task, and this team has managed to do just that: raise enough money to scale, get traction in 20 cities, and attract a million users.

  • AirBnb/Instacart/Pinterest/Instagram: They started by doing things that did not scale, and created a benchmark for the content that would be on each of these platforms. After an extensive period of quality control, their content is continuously beautiful, clean, and effective.

  • Netflix: They started out as a DVD delivery service, but they were able to listen to trends and innovate to create a phenomenal personalized solution.

  • Prelog's and their Chef Florian: This new Downtown Austin restaurant and the team are an inspiration to us. They moved here from Austria, and are the embodiment of a fearless entrepreneur spirit, with an immense passion for their craft and attention to detail in all they do.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • In order to feed future generations, we have to find the happy medium between sustainability of humans and ecosystems. The exact process that produces the best quality organic food, is unfortunately not going to feed our growing world population. The challenge is to find the compromise between responsible farming and mass production, between reducing waste and producing more efficiently, between a massive scale national supply chain and a hyperlocal market. We have to bridge the information gap and start chipping away at the problems from both ends.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • We have a tendency, as a team of engineers, to think through lots of possible scenarios for any given plan. The hardest lesson has been to realize that more often than not things do not end up the way we anticipate. We had to learn to be very resilient, and very open to change.

Tree Adoption Uganda

Is a youth-led social enterprise that jointly addresses climate change and food insecurity in the least climate resilient semi-urban farming communities. Via our TreeCapital model, we identify vulnerable families and set up fruit tree nurseries in their backyard. They care for the trees until when they grow into saplings. With resources from corporate partners via Corporate Social Responsibility we buy back the saplings, the families earn an income which we task them to use as capital to support or grow their agri-businesses.  We then plant the trees around farmlands in the same community where they:

  • Grow to act as wind breakers and protect crops from strong winds
  • Stabilize the soil preventing erosion and add nutrients to support sustainable agriculture
  • Provide fruits that supplement children's nutrition
  • Fruits act as an added income source from their sales
  • Mitigate climate change effects

+ Q&A with Tree Adoption Uganda

Why are you interested in food?

  • In my country (Uganda)--38 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting), 16 percent are underweight and 6 percent suffer acute malnutrition. Malnutrition impedes cognitive development among children thus undermining school performance and long term human productivity. To achieve a vibrant and illustrious generation of youth that can effect positive social impact in our communities and carry our work forward, we need to focus on the nutrition of our children. It is even absurd that, Uganda’s most common malnutrition problems are high rates of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, especially of Vitamin A and iron--nutrients that we can easily obtain from fruits. It is for this reason that my TreeCapital program is focused on fruit trees.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • My customers need to understand the link between climate change and food security. They need to understand that in order to achieve sustainable food security it is imperative to invest in building resilience against climate change in the farming communities. Going forward it is only the communities that are resilient that will maintain the required yield and productivity to support our food systems. Action needs to be taken now.

What other companies or leaders inspire you and why?

  • The late Wangari Mathai inspires me because she did not wait for decisions made in her parliament, or in the UN but went straight back into her community with very limited resources and started work with her fellow local women that has today set the impetus for mitigating climate change in Africa.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • The biggest challenge of our times to feeding future generations is our leaders and their lack of political will to effectively address the dangers of looming climate change. Many deny it, others do not understand it, while others are too scared to take action. They are instead endangering our continued sustenance and the ability to sustainably inhabit the earth with hope of a zero hunger generation.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Many young people around the world are reluctant to take action because they feel inadequate to effect change or look at the limited resources they have and become discouraged. However, over the past 8 years in this space I have learned that our small actions in our different communities, when summed up together, will constitute global change. It is on that point that i call upon all youth around the world, reminding them that we are the most illustrious generation ever to grace the soils of the earth and that it is incumbent upon us to ensure its continued sustainable existence and end hunger among its inhabitants. Take action today, however small it may seem, take action.

True Made Foods

Wants to offer something better. Something real. No hipster trends or crazy fads. Just good food that is good for you. We don't slap "organic" labels on the same old crap and try to convince you that you're eating healthier. The only solution is to go back to eating real food. Real food that is grown sustainably and made with real ingredients that you can recognize. True Made Foods makes good food for good reasons. That's why we infuse our sauces with fresh and healthy vegetables like spinach, carrots and squash. We are putting real food back into your food.

+ Q&A with true made foods

Why are you interested in food?

  • Food is at the intersection of everything. It affects politics, health, education and the environment. We feel like we can have a greater impact on helping make America a better place and building the kind of America we want to see in the 21st century through food. Plus, let's face it -- food is fantastic, fun and the food industry can be a joy to work in. It's a huge system, but also personal and creates great connections --bringing friends and families together.

What's the one thing you wish your customers knew about the food system?

  • There's a big "fake healthy" movement going on. The word "organic" has been commoditized and overused--just because something is organic, doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. Organic sugar is still bad for you and empty calorie organic foods are still part of the problem. The focus should be on eating more vegetables, getting more nutrients and balancing your nutrition. Cut down on sugar and processed foods, eat organic when you can--but it's more important to eat healthy foods like orange and green leafy vegetables.

What other companies and leaders inspire you and why?

  • Rocco DiSpirito inspires us. He lives his ethos and his method and focus on nutrition actually works. It's a basic, simple method that focuses on getting more nutrition per calorie, which is exactly what we are trying to do.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to feeding future generations?

  • As the global population grows, we need to find ways to get higher quality and more nutrient dense foods more widely available to more people. Eating local and cutting out meat helps some, but they aren't sustainable solutions. 7 billion people are not going to become vegetarians and there will always be limitations on growing some products locally. We need to use more science and technology in farming in the right way--that can create higher yields of a greater variety of nutritious foods in ways that are environmentally beneficial and that can be grown closer to transport links and population centers. Hydroponics, greenhouses and urban farming will make a difference, but we also need better transport infrastructure, better city planning and greener energy--all of these things affect the system that determines what food people have access to and how much it costs.

What's the most surprising and/or hardest lesson you've learned since starting your project?

  • Just the incredible amount of capital it takes to launch a product into the marketplace. Building a better mousetrap is not an end in itself, and though food products scale well, it takes a lot of money to get initial traction because we have such a crowded marketplace. We think America probably loses out on experiencing better food products, because starting a food company is becoming a privilege of the 1%--so we miss out on some great innovations that can't afford to scale. We need more accelerators--like Food-X--and early stage CPG investors to help vet and build up early entrepreneurs and make it easier for food startups. If it wasn't for Food-X, we wouldn't be here today.