A recent study from Zest Labs about produce shelf life found that freshness varied significantly among products and stores. In addition, the study showed that the primary cause of food waste happens after harvest because of processing and harvest conditions. Full Harvest founder and CEO Christine Moseley shared her ideas about stopping food waste with an Airbnb model in an interview.
The Zest Labs study revealed that preventing food waste due to premature spoilage requires careful monitoring and evaluation. A simple difference in precooling times can affect shelf life. For example, strawberry pallets that wait five hours instead of two hours have a three-day shelf life difference. Finding a way to use the produce before it spoils is important, and Full Harvest offers a solution.
“Full Harvest is a California-based technology company solving one of the world’s largest problems: food waste. We are a B2B marketplace that connects food and beverage companies directly with farms to buy imperfect and surplus produce. We create value along the entire supply chain by lowering healthy food production costs and significantly reducing wasted food and resources, while also bringing farmers an additional revenue stream,” Moseley says.
Similar to Airbnb, Full Harvest is an online marketplace that connects people. Farmers can post what produce they have on hand, and potential buyers, such as juice and processed food companies that do not care what the fruits and vegetables look like, can search the inventory and have purchases shipped directly to their doorstep. So far, Full Harvest has sold over 10 million pounds of ugly and surplus produce. This is equivalent to preventing over 600 million gallons of water from being wasted, which is enough to provide drinking water for 11 million people for a year. It has prevented 3.5 million kg of CO2e emissions, which is equivalent to taking close to 800 cars off the road.
“The current procurement practices for produce from farms to buyers are primarily offline. Things are done largely with pen and paper and over the phone, email and text. In an industry that is now facing new strict food safety laws (FSMA), it will be almost impossible to have an easy way to comply without an online solution to trace orders,” Moseley shares.
Farm food loss occurs because farmers have not had an easy solution and market to offload excess produce quickly. Similar to how Airbnb unlocked a multi-billion excess inventory market with a marketplace, Full Harvest is the first to do so for excess inventory in agriculture. Full Harvest acts like a three-sided marketplace connecting food and beverage companies, growers and trucking companies.
“One of our challenges is the significant lack of data on both farm supply and food and beverage leads. However, as Full Harvest grows, we are gathering data that currently does not exist in the market. The team has invested significant resources in innovative and robust processes to collect and store data to move as quickly as possible. We have an extremely low level of rejections compared to the industry norm due to the high level of vetting we do for quality of our suppliers and buyers. We also ship direct from farms to the buyer so that it is faster and fresher than going through traditional distributor channels, where product sits in a warehouse for several days or more,” Moseley says.
Full Harvest is focusing on the B2B online produce-purchasing platform for imperfect and surplus produce and has no plans to expand directly to consumers. At this time, Moseley feels the center of attention is on business to business because this has the largest and fastest potential impact on the food waste issue. The way Full Harvest plans to engage with consumers is through the brands that it supplies. It is currently developing co-marketed sustainable food products with large food and beverage companies.