Full Harvest targets food waste by finding homes for imperfect, surplus produce
December 17, 2021 | By christine hall – Techcrunch
Full article can be read here.
The San Francisco-based company’s produce business-to-business marketplace provides a way for produce buyers and sellers to quickly close deals on surplus or imperfect crops in just a few clicks. It also creates an additional revenue stream for farmers.
Founder and CEO Christine Moseley told TechCrunch that a majority of produce companies are still using pen, paper and fax machines to do business.
“This is one of the most important industries, and we wanted to automate and bring the industry online to solve things that haven’t been solved before,” she added. “For example, there is a ton of paperwork involved in buying and selling, but by automating the onboarding process, that process that used to take weeks now take minutes.”
So Full Harvest got busy developing some technology that includes a spot marketplace with a matching algorithm and visibility so that buyers could see what suppliers had available. It also created a third-party audit and verification process to provide consistent specifications to reduce the average amount of rescued produce that is turned away. The industry average stands at 10%, while the company’s rejection average is 1% to 2%, Moseley said.
Within the past two years, Full Harvest’s impact on keeping food out of landfills grew five times, prompting the company to seek additional capital to keep the momentum going.
Today, the company announced $23 million in Series B funding. Telus Ventures led the round, with participation from new investors Rethink Impact, Citi Impact, Doon Capital, Stardust Equity and Portfolia Food & AgTech Fund, and existing investors, including Spark Capital, Cultivian Sandbox, Astia Fund and Radicle Growth. As part of the investment, Jay Crone, investment director at Telus, joined Full Harvest’s board of directors.
It’s been a while since we checked in with Full Harvest. We profiled the company at the beginning of its journey in 2016 and then again in 2017 when it raised $2 million. The company raised an additional $8.5 million in Series A funding in 2018. Including additional funding, the company now has $34.5 million in total funding.
“The importance of building more sustainable businesses has never been more evident, especially for those in the food and beverage space,” said Surbhi Martin, vice president of Greek yogurt and functional nutrition for Danone North America. “By sourcing produce online through Full Harvest and selecting fruit for our products that would otherwise have gone to waste, we are answering the growing consumer demand for more sustainable food options.”
Full Harvest’s business model is to take a percentage of every transaction made on its marketplace. Between 2020 and 2021, the company tripled its revenue as it provided transparency into the supply chain, Moseley said. Back in 2018, Full Harvest had about eight employees; that has now grown to 35. The company also expanded geographically, including Canada.
With the new capital, Moseley intends to invest in technology development, triple the size of Full Harvest’s technology and product teams in 2022, continue to expand its footprint in North America and advance its data and market insights offerings, like produce availability, pricing, specifications, sustainable offerings, quality and forecasting support.
Full Harvest is not alone in addressing food waste and raising venture-backed capital for their efforts. Just this year, we’ve seen announcements from companies like:
- TreeDots raised $11 million in Series A capital for its B2B food surplus marketplace and a social commerce feature for group buying by consumers.
- Shelf Engine, working to reduce food waste in grocery stores, brought in a $41 million Series B round in March and then an additional $2 million in September.
- Food sharing app OLIO brought in $43 million in Series B funding.
- Apeel, known for its plant-based layer covering fruits and vegetables, brought in $250 million in Series E funding.
- Too Good to Go secured $31.1 million for its marketplace enabling customers to buy food right before it goes to waste.
- Martie launched in November with $3 million in seed funding to divert shelf-stable items from landfills.
- Imperfect Foods brought in $95 million in Series D funding for its sustainable grocery delivery.
While that list of companies is innovating technology in the produce space, Moseley considers Full Harvest unique in that its expertise is on the sustainable product side and it has proven itself as a leader in digitization of the produce supply chain, putting it ahead of the curve on both fronts.
Up next, the company plans to secure partnerships around logistics technology to scale further and expand on the SKUs it is able to offer.
“We saw significant increase in our technology and user experiences after finishing some automating processes that were previously offline for the industry,” she added. “We also expanded on our spot buy marketplace and hit a big milestone of 50 million pounds sold.”