15 Minutes With… Christine Moseley, Founder and CEO of Full Harvest
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Global AgInvesting Media (February 1, 2022)
(NOTE: This article first ran in our sister publication, GAI News.)
You could say that Full Harvest Founder and CEO Christine Moseley has made good on the motto “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” especially evident by the $23 million the company secured in late December 2021 to reduce on-farm food waste by digitizing the produce supply chain.
Backed by TELUS Ventures, Rethink Impact, Citi Impact, Cultivian Sandbox, Radicle Growth, and others, this funding builds upon previous raises of $8.5 million in August 2018, and $3 million before that.
The San Francisco-based startup, launched in 2016, works with food buyers and sellers to find a market for food that may otherwise be disposed of, whether it’s surplus or just doesn’t look quite right. This food is not bad, it just looks imperfect, yet it still often ends up in a landfill. Worse still, this amounts to about one-third of the calories produced in the world being thrown away (that equates to approximately one pound of food wasted per person per day), and also contributing upwards of 10 percent to greenhouse gases (GHG) annually. (To put this in context, it’s around three times the global emissions from aviation.)
But Moseley is on a mission to change that, and is getting recognition for doing so: in 2020, Full Harvest was named to the 2020 Fast Company World Changing Ideas list, winning the food category – out of a record 3,000-plus entries – for the company’s innovative model working to solve the world’s leading contributor to climate change: food waste. And its produce supply chain efforts have saved over one billion gallons of water from being wasted, and over 6 million kilograms of CO2 emissions from being created.
We talked to Moseley to get more details.
1). You are a self-described “serial entrepreneur”, having started businesses at age 17. Please tell us about your passion to fundamentally change the food system for the better that led to your founding Full Harvest.
The quick backstory is that I spent 15 years within the logistics and food industries, and I saw a lot of waste and inefficiencies firsthand. At Maersk, I saw many things being wasted throughout the global supply chain. After business school, I helped scale one of the first green juice companies in the U.S., and saw waste there as well further downstream, and operations still being done with paper and pen. This was frustrating because they were selling $13 green juices and it was because they were paying top dollar for perfect-looking produce, just to immediately process it. I began to wonder why our food system, which is so important and touches everybody on the planet, was so broken, yet not a lot of innovation and technology was being utilized to improve things.
On top of that, I had been a founder since I was a teenager, and was always looking for big problems to solve. So packed a suitcase and came out to California a few years ago where I became passionate about using technology to improve the food system to make healthy food more affordable, accessible, and sustainable. From what I researched, the solution was to create a marketplace, and connect businesses to incent them to sell more of their product, because so much was being wasted at the farm level that could be used in these burgeoning plant-based food products. To me, it seemed like a win-win-win of connecting the dots with technology between farms with excess, and the food companies who were interested in that excess.
It was very challenging early on. I definitely got a lot of naysayers and people telling me I was crazy. They thought I was trying to sell trash or rotting food and I had to explain what I meant, and that it was perfectly edible food. But I had a lot of mentorship early on that helped me ignore the naysayers.
2). Tell us more about the goals of “digitizing the global produce supply chain while reducing food waste”. What sets your business model apart from other startups trying to reduce food waste?
When I moved to California to start this company, what I confirmed is that surprisingly, people were still operating with paper and pen, so I knew we could have a very notable impact by adding technological improvements.
I realized that it was an incentive problem. There was all this edible food, but because retailers have gotten larger and larger and more buying power, they were becoming the main driver for how farmers grow their products. And farmers acquiese because if they lose the Walmart or Costco business, they could go out of business. Consumers got pickier and pickier, and retailers heeded that call, demanding perfection from the farmers. This essentially changed the way farmers operated – harvesting the perfect produce, then throwing away the rest, oftentimes paying to have it hauled away as trash because they didn’t have a market or customer to sell the product to.
What I saw was this huge opportunity to connect the dots with technology, introducing the farmers to other companies and other industries, via an online platform where they could offload this excess produce to markets that they hadn’t previously known or considered. The solution, which became Full Harvest, was to build a B2B marketplace connecting farms to produce buyers.
What we've learned through this process of digitizing is that it is critical for the food supply chain, particularly evident by the wake-up call of COVID-19 where the industry realized so many supply chain disruptions, and ultimately, more waste with even more people going hungry. The industry is data-starved, and has little market transparency, but technology can solve all of that. It can solve ease of buying and selling, address major pain points, provide transparency of data, and help the produce industry become more proactive versus reactive. With technology, the industry can start leveraging data to plan better, to grow better, and then prevent even more waste from happening in the future.
Our business model is very unique in that we are the only B2B food waste startup that really focuses on solving on-farm food waste, which new data confirms, is over half of the food waste problem. We're also one of the only companies with a scalable solution that's years into it solving the challenge of on-farm food waste, making us a category leader on this specific part of the problem.
3). What are the benefits of this online produce supply chain, and how is it progressing?
The benefits are that we're solving several of the biggest pain points of our customers – produce buyers and suppliers – essentially for free, in a digital online platform that makes it very simple to purchase produce.
And since reports show that more than a quarter of all edible produce does not even leave the farm, by using our system, farmers have the opportunity to increase their bottom line by up to 25 percent! We can help them unlock those excess sales within minutes online with access to new markets, creating more flexible supply chains. And that's a game changer.
On the buyer side, the cost of produce is going up, and cost of goods are under pressure due to competitiveness and commoditization, yet consumers want more affordable plant-based products, especially organic. So sadly, a lot of companies cut corners by adding water or cheaper, higher sugar fillers, but instead we can get them more affordable produce, even organic. It may be imperfect, but if you process it, that doesn't matter if it's high quality and fresh, direct from the farm. It’s a huge benefit to food companies because one, they could become organic when they couldn't have afforded that previously, and two, they can have higher margins and improve their overall company's bottom line efficiencies because of the data and the speed.
We also found that this solution will save up to 95 percent of their time in sourcing, because instead of phone and paperwork back and forth, we've automated and digitized the process where they can take orders within minutes with just a click – adding significant value.
Additionally, sustainability, and ESG, and climate change are huge right now – and should and will continue to be – so this is driving a lot of consumer demand. We've been told by some of the largest food and beverage companies in the world that we are the only solution that they can find globally to help them source scalable, sustainable produce to make sustainable products. So that is a very exciting position to be in. We have big partnerships with Danone and other large companies that have been wildly successful because consumers are looking for those types of products, and our marketplace helps them satisfy that demand.
4). Full Harvest tripled its revenue during the first year of the pandemic, delivering on the need for more flexible, transparent supply chain solutions. Please provide more info on this.
Certainly, the pandemic was a wake-up call to the industry. Take the farmer who might have been selling 80 to 90 percent of his/her goods to the food service industry, which then completely shut down for a year. There was a realization to diversify, and to be able to quickly and easily get access to new markets. Our B2B marketplace helps this by providing real-time data at your fingertips about a large network of available produce. For 2022, I think there will be a big focus on digitizing and employing advanced technologies where possible in food and ag. It’s the silver lining of the pandemic that now people are more aware and on-board with improving our food and agriculture supply chain.
5). What type of developments can our GAI News readers anticipate in the future from Full Harvest?
Given that we work with some of the largest food companies in the world, I would say keep an eye out for products with our seal on it that reads, “Full Harvest Verified Rescued Produce™”. There’s integrity around those items – the fact that otherwise that produce would have gone to waste and created emissions. For example, Danone's yogurt line "Two Good Good Save" uses our verified produce, and has come to include their number one SKUs, while at the same time helping the planet. So consumers can really help be part of the solution by seeking out more sustainable products like these that utilize Verified Rescued Produce™.
ABOUT CHRISTINE MOSELEY
Christine Moseley, Full Harvest founder & CEO, is a passionate serial entrepreneur. At the age of 17, she started a music education non-profit, Musical Empowerment, which is still growing nationally 20 years later. Currently, at Full Harvest, she is solving the food waste problem at the farm level with technology. Full Harvest is the first B2B platform for surplus and imperfect produce, connecting large farms directly to food and beverage companies.
Moseley has over 15 years of experience in the logistics and food industries at both Fortune 100 companies (Maersk, P&G) as well as high-growth food start-ups. In her last corporate role as head of strategic projects and business development at Organic Avenue, a NYC healthy food and juice startup, she helped the company double in size.
Moseley holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and a BA from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She has been recognized as Inc.’s Top 100 Female Founders, and Fortune's #2 Most Innovative Woman in Food & Drink. Full Harvest was recently recognized as a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer, the top 2020 Fast Company World Changing Idea in Food, and one of Forbes’ Most Innovative Agtech Startups. You can learn more at www.fullharvest.com.
- Michelle Pelletier Marshall is contributing editor and author for HighQuest Partners’ GAI News and Oilseed & Grain News, and managing editor for its WIA Today blog. Additionally, she is the company’s Senior PR/Media Manager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.