A startup aiming to fight food waste just raised a seed round to grow their venture.
Hazel Technologies, a startup spun out of Northwestern University, announced $800,000 in funding Tuesday. The round was led by Cambridge, Mass. firm Rhapsody Venture Partners with participation from Massachusetts firm VentureWell and San Francisco's Valley Oak Investments.
The startup aims to improve the shelf life of produce (up to 40 percent of produce in the US goes to waste each year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council) allowing grower-shippers to reduce inventory loss, have higher quality produce and gain access to global markets that were previously unreachable with shorter shelf life, said cofounder Pat Flynn to Chicago Inno over email.
Hazel Technologies has two proprietary products that address the aging process in produce. Their first product was FruitBrite, a sachet that distributes ethylene inhibitors, and can double the shelf life of most fruits and vegetables by blocking the aging hormone in plants. This can be used for a variety of produce, including apples, pears, peaches, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onion, leafy greens, and broccoli. A case study on avocados, for example, doubled the shelf life, maintained skin color up to three times longer and reduced discoloration by 85 percent.
However, berries don't respond to ethylene, so the team also created BerryBrite, a small clamshell packet that slowly releases vapor derived from essential oils to reduce fungus and disease (which are the key drivers of spoilage and waste for berries). They were able to improve berry firmness, reduce incidence of disease by up to 90 percent and triple berry shelf life. This can also be used on organic berries.
The new funding will allow them to scale their products to meet the demand of early customers.
“We have completed 12 successful commercial pilots and these same customers are waiting for us to be able to ship product," said cofounder and CEO Aidan Mouat. "These customers cumulatively ship over 500 million pounds of produce per year. With this financing, we can fulfill orders we are receiving for 2017. We are passionate about reducing food waste and improving produce quality and now we’re in a position to deliver.”
The startup has also grown to seven full time team members, and are gearing up to move to a new Bronzeville facility which is five times the size of their current facility, in order to increase production capacity to serve their first customers and fill pre-orders.
Last year Hazel Technologies won $500,000 at the Clean Energy Trust competition, previously received a USDA Phase I SBIR grant for $100,000, as well as about $25,000 in funding from Venturewell, the Northwestern Universtiy Venture Challenge (NUVC), and the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).