Sustainable Agriculture Startup Profiles
What if you had access to a fresh farmers market seven days a week, knew exactly what they would be offering so that you can plan your meals, were able to contact your preferred vendors with a shopping list and could pay for everything in advance, with your fresh veggies being delivered directly to your door?
That’s exactly what Antony Lee, founder and CEO of Fresh Nation, has put together.
“The idea was to build a network of farmers markets across the country so that it’s a win for the vendors and a win for the customers,” Lee said. “We don’t necessarily need more farmers markets, we need better farmers markets.”
In a $670 billion wholesale food industry cycle that serves some 312 million people across the nation, commercial food retailers are generally at the mercy of large food distributors like Sysco and U.S. Foods. Those are the behemoth companies that have access to all the food suppliers – from farm produce to factory-farmed meat – and maintain their inventories with a distinct lack of vendor and pricing transparency for buying customers.
Enter Foodem, a start-up online trading, business intelligence and process automator that connects wholesale food buyers (restaurants, hospitals, prisons, universities, governmental institutions) with a range of food suppliers, in a platform that allows free comparison shopping, automated analytics (keeps track of trends and price fluctuations) and a vast array of new food sources to expand buyers’ free market choices.
If you are a CSA member, you’ve been there. You get a box full of gorgeous produce accompanied by some kind of vegetable that you have no idea what to do with it. It stays in the back of your refrigerator until mold starts to form and you guiltily throw it into the compost.
Local Thyme was founded with the idea of ending that veggie guilt. Eighteen months ago, Pat Mulvey and Laura Gilliam launched a service to provide Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups with tried-and-true recipes for all the vegetables, fruits, and sustainably-farmed meats, fish and eggs that show up in farm boxes delivered around Madison, Wisconsin.
Mulvey has 20 years as a private chef under her belt, and Gilliam is a master preserver and an organic community gardener who knows what to grow to complement all those exotic vegetables.
In 2006, Shelly Herman and Irvin Cernauskas set out on a mission to make local and organic food available year-round in two major Midwestern markets: Chicago and Milwaukee. Cernauskas, who had been actively involved the environmental nonprofit community and in creating markets for local farmers, already had the connections needed to help create a stronger relationship between local farmers and urban consumers.
“The farmers were talking about how they want to spend more time farming and less time trucking their food all over the place,” said Herman. “At the same time we realized that people in the city or suburbs need a way to get fresh, healthy food in a year-round way.” To fill this growing need, Herman and Cernauskas started Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks, a local and organic food delivery service.
Have you ever wondered how some plants are able to endure the most extreme conditions from the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park to the high altitudes of Mt. Everest? It turns out that many of these plants likely owe their survival to symbiotic fungi that make themselves at home within the plants tissues. Microbiologist Russell (Rusty) Rodriguez and geneticist Regina Redman of Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies in Seattle, Washington are trying to foster similar relationships between fungus and plants in agriculture in hopes of improving drought and salinity tolerance, promoting temperature resistance, and boosting nutrient content.
The husband and wife team first discovered a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a plant by chance while studying plants that grow in different soils in Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. Rodriguez was collecting data for the U. S. Geological Survey where he worked as a principle investigator and microbiologist. Redman was conducting her own research while working as a research professor in the State University of Montana’s microbiology department.