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
Green Zebra Grocery
She's making healthy food as easy to find as the local convenience store.
Lisa Sedlar was living in Boulder, Colorado, in the mid-aughts when she’d see fit college students returning from mountain bike rides grabbing Big Gulps and Snickers at the mini-mart. This disconnect inspired an idea: Why not launch a healthy corner store, where kale and farro salads and fresh pressed juices were on offer instead of junky snacks? The idea percolated during her seven-year stint as CEO of New Seasons, a naturalish grocery store chain in Portland, Oregon, and in 2012, she left to launch Green Zebra Grocery. The company--named after an heirloom tomato--was built to make healthy food accessible and convenient for everybody. There are three Green Zebras in Portland--a fourth opens this fall--and Sedlar is about to close a $10 million Series B funding round as she explores potential locations in Seattle, L.A., and the Bay Area. --Hannah Wallace
In 2018, her kombucha became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage in the U.S.
In 2012, Daina Trout was working for a big corporation and feeling like a number. With her boyfriend and best friend, she set out to found a company--and settled on what was already brewing on her kitchen table: kombucha. An avid fermenter who’d studied nutrition, she found a niche almost immediately: high-quality fermented tea infused with herbs, cold-pressed organic juice, and spices. Breaking into the refrigerated-beverage case was no simple task, but in 2018, Health-Ade became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage brand in the U.S. It’s in 26,000 stores and has 220 employees, mostly in and around Los Angeles, where the company brews the tea in 2.5-gallon glass jugs, all in its own facility. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin