Maker of indoor farms that efficiently grow produce year-round
Local Roots designs, manufactures, and operates indoor farms that seek to grow organic produce year-round in an efficient manner. The student founders, who are focused on ecofriendly growing practices, have turned 40-foot shipping containers into scalable indoor farming systems. Using robotics, microbiology, and big data analytics, Local Roots says its containers have achieved higher production densities--up to 300 times higher per square foot--than conventional farms. The startup’s produce is grown without pesticides or herbicides and the containers use less water than traditional methods. A second version of the company’s farms, capable of growing the equivalent of five acres of outdoor produce, will launch this month. Local Roots is dedicated to providing affordable and sustainable produce while inspiring healthy lifestyles.
Local Roots has attracted over $1 million in seed funding from investors in the food service, commercial real estate, and traditional farming sectors. It currently sells its indoor-farm produce to TenderGreens, a fast-casual restaurant chain in Southern California, and also direct to consumers. It has set up pilot programs with other restaurants, retailers, and wholesalers, and eventually plans to work with national distributors.
Creators of Rosie the Robot for commercial cleaning
Maidbot plans to disrupt the hospitality industry with Rosie the Robot, a device that can be used for commercial cleaning. The robotics company, which is still in stealth mode, is run by business and engineering students and alumni from Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Georgia Tech universities. The team created Rosie to help reduce costs, inefficiencies, and injury rates in commercial--and eventually residential--cleaning. The robot also gathers useful data to improve management productivity in scheduling and logistics. In the future, additional features like laundry-folding and bed-making will be added. Maidbot is receiving preorders for the robot, which is scheduled to be released in September.
Maidbot is establishing pilot programs in the hotel industry with companies including Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham. The robotics startup has raised $500,000 in funding from angel investors and is currently trying to secure a $4 million round. It is part of the Ithaca-based REV Accelerator Program, and last summer completed the Life Changing Lab incubator program for Cornell students and alumni. Maidbot expects to have revenue by the third quarter of 2016.
Cold-pressed juices made from odd-looking produce to combat food waste
MISFIT Juicery aims to fight food waste by using tasteful but aesthetically unappealing fruits and vegetables in its juice products. The Georgetown University student startup makes its cold-pressed juices with oddly shaped, sized, or colored produce that would otherwise end up in the trash bin. Unlike cleanse-focused juice companies, MISFIT Juicery is branding its product as an everyday drink. Its goal is to expand the concept to other food products and consumer goods while changing the way people engage with food.
One year after launch, MISFIT Juicery sells its product in 44 locations in Washington, D.C. It has partnered with fast-casual restaurant Chaia, which is piloting the startup’s juice kegs. MISFIT posted $73,000 in revenue for 2015, received $35,000 in seed funding earlier this year, and is hoping to raise an additional $215,000. The startup won first place in Georgetown University’s Hoya Pitch Challenge and Social Innovation Competition, and received $20,000 from a Georgetown MBA class. MISFIT has a number of advisers, including Jordan Figueiredo, an anti-food-waste activist. It also secured a partnership with Baldor, the largest produce distributor in the Northeast, to incorporate discarded produce in MISFIT juices.
Philly-based bakery and maker of cookie sandwich NOMwich
NOMsense Bakery sells a type of cookie sandwich that it has dubbed the “NOMwich.” The bakery was founded by two University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students, who transformed their dessert-making hobby into a business. NOMwiches come in four varieties -- all with a filling, a topping, and a drizzle -- such as the Nut Job, made with coconut cookies, crunchy peanut butter filling, lime sugar drizzle, and a toasted coconut topping. The bakery has become an official vendor at Penn and secured wholesale contracts with Philadelphia coffee shops, including Hubbub Coffee and Pétrus Ky Café. The NOMsense founders aim to provide a new dessert experience through innovative design and a community-centered brand. They plan to eventually open their own brick-and-mortar store in Philly’s University City neighborhood.
NOMwiches retail from $2.50 to $2.75 per cookie and the startup made $3,500 in revenue for 2015. NOMsense Bakery was part of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program and won first place in the 2015 Wharton Women Shark Tank Competition. In January, NOMsense received $5,000 as the Northeastern Regional winner of the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, and last year raised $4,000 through a three-month Kickstarter campaign.
Online marketplace that partners with skilled Latin American artisans to make shoes
PATOS Shoes is an online marketplace that partners with Latin American artisans to create hand-crafted shoes. Founder Fernando Rojo, a University of Pennsylvania student, was inspired by a visit to an artisan fair in Buenos Aires to manufacture the first PATOS shoe line, the Rafael Collection. The startup aims to empower artisans across Latin America through its network, allowing them to work under fair conditions and maintain their centuries-old handcrafting techniques while creating a platform for their products to enter the international markets.
The startup has grown its number of artisan partnerships from one to 20 since its launch, working with shoemakers in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Its monthly production capability has also tripled to more than 12,000 pairs of shoes in the same period. PATOS has two retail partnerships with socially-conscious boutiques in Michigan but is focused on e-commerce growth for scalability. PATOS now makes 11 different shoes in 45 different textile designs, with each pair retailing from $50 to $75. The startup plans to launch a free mobile Android app this month for its artisans in Argentina and Peru.