Her 35-year-old gourmet meat company anticipated--and shaped--the sustainable, locavore trends today.
In 1985, a young Frenchwoman living in New York City cofounded a small operation to sell duck livers and other exotic proteins to gourmet restaurants. Thirty-five years later, Ariane Daguin still entirely owns that business, D’Artagnan, which she has built into a profitable, $132 million organic-meat distributor with a near-national network of small farmers and artisanal suppliers. D’Artagnan was one of the first companies to introduce organic free-range chickens to American chefs and home cooks. It also anticipated, and shaped, the locavore movement now sweeping through our food system. “My animals have one bad day,” is how Daguin, now 61, sums up the philosophy of humane, sustainable farming underlying her business. Along the way, she overcame a wrenching breakup with her co-founder and ongoing regulatory battles over foie gras, the controversial and luxurious duck livers with which she launched her company. But neither challenge has stopped Daguin from building her revenue, which she’s aiming to double in the next five years, or her business operations, which she has expanded to Denver and soon, she hopes, to California. “I’m going into totally unknown territory,” says Daguin of her company’s recent growth. “It’s new, but it’s very exciting.” --Maria Aspan
Lisa Q. Fetterman
After copycats moved in on her sous-vide machines, she began selling fancy frozen meals to cook in them.
From the first, Nomiku—Lisa Fetterman’s home sous-vide maker business—earned love from Kickstarter, Shark Tank, and food nerds. Then came the imitators. “We got copied up the yang,” says Fetterman. “If you Google ‘sous-vide,’ there are now like one bajillion machines.” Seeking inspiration, Fetterman embarked on field research, observing 25 of her customers using Nomiku machines in their homes and then—as a thank you—sous-viding meals for them. “Everyone was like, ‘Couldn’t this be your product--that you come chef for us?’” she says. So last year Fetterman started selling 30 frozen sous-vide meals, with recipes devised by herself and chefs from three Michelin-starred restaurants. Her machines now come with RFID readers that can recognize each meal, ensuring that it’s perfectly cooked. The renamed Nomiku Meals sells machines at cost and makes all its money on repeat purchases of the food. So far the strategy is working. Revenue doubled in 2018 and Fetterman anticipates a repeat performance this year. --Leigh Buchanan
Farmers, bankers, and food companies rely on her agricultural data and analysis.
How do you assign a financial value to sustainable agriculture? For Kellee James, who co-founded the market intelligence startup Mercaris in 2013, answering that question has become a true calling. “It’s one thing if you’re paying $9 for a bushel of corn and you want to incentivize organic production practices,” explains the former White House Fellow, who was selected by President Obama. “It’s another if you’re a farmer or food company losing money because you don’t know what’s going on in the market.” Like a Bloomberg Terminal for organic and non-GMO agriculture, Mercaris provides data and analysis on economic fundamentals like market prices, supply estimates, and projected demand. These are helpful to everyone along the supply chain, including farmers and consumer food companies like General Mills, as well as financial institutions like Rabobank. Up next: risk-management tools and some fine-tuning of its organic dairy platform, which launched earlier this year. --Jill Krasny
She created an online marketplace for unwanted but edible produce.
Watermelon, celery hearts, broccoli bits: There’s no shortage of food that goes to waste in America. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration said the volume of such food in the U.S. totaled no less than 133 billion pounds. Christine Moseley saw this waste firsthand while visiting a romaine farm in Salinas, California, where only a fraction of the crop was harvested. That moment, which she calls heartbreaking, inspired the 2015 launch of Full Harvest, an online marketplace that connects growers’ imperfect produce with food and beverage buyers. “We helped growers increase their yield and profit by acre,” says Moseley, who spent 15 years in logistics and food retailing. Today, she and a global food brand are developing a plant-based snack made entirely of rescued produce, and she is proud to say that she’s doing her part in the fight against climate change. --Jill Krasny
Her startup brings fresh, local food to the doorsteps of consumers and high-end restaurants.
Julia Niiro’s two-year MilkRun harnesses an old-fashioned idea--the milkman--to solve two key problems of the local food movement: distribution and low pay. MilkRun brings all the food groups--dairy, produce, bread, and meat, and even locally produced pet food--to the doorsteps of customers and high-end restaurants in Portland, Oregon. Niiro hires farmers and ranchers to make deliveries themselves; cutting out the middleman allows Niiro to increase their take to 70 percent of each dollar spent on food. (In a traditional supply chain, producers receive only 10 percent.) “I want to make it as easy to buy from local farmers as it is to book a stay in someone’s house or call a ride,” Niiro said in a recent TEDx Talk. “If it was easier to buy better tasting, fresher food directly from your local farmers than it was to go to a local supermarket after a long day, wouldn’t you?” --Hannah Wallace