SF’s Full Harvest Bags $8.5M to Help Sell “Ugly and Surplus” Produce

Full Harvest, an online market for imperfect produce that previously would have been thrown out, announced it has raised $8.5 million in a Series A round of funding.

The funding was led by Spark Capital and includes investors such as Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss, and John Scherr, head of strategic partnerships at CircleUp. Full Harvest raised $2 million in seed funding last year.

The San Francisco-based startup was founded in 2016 with the goal of reducing food waste, especially the $20 billion in “ugly and surplus” produce that Full Harvest, citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, says gets tossed just because it wouldn’t win a beauty contest. “Our customers are food and beverage and consumer package goods companies, food processors, anybody that can buy in bulk and don’t care what it looks like,” says Christine Moseley, Full Harvest’s founder and CEO. “They’re going to juice, cut, blend, or cook it in some way.”

In the two years that Full Harvest has been in business, the startup says it has brokered sales of nearly seven million pounds of produce from large farms. “More than 60 percent of farms are on the verge of bankruptcy,” she says. “They don’t have the resources to invest in a new market so we’re an incremental sales force for a product they didn’t have a way to sell.”

Full Harvest uses technology to connect producers largely on the West Coast, and some in Texas and Colorado, with buyers. The company arranges the transportation in between the two for a cut. The process saves buyers between 10 percent to 30 percent in costs and is more efficient, Moseley says. “They saved 96 percent of the time [formerly spent] on procurement, working offline with five to 10 distributors over the phone, email, or text,” she says. “Now you can place an order in 60 seconds; it’s an Amazon-like experience.”

Full Harvest’s drive to find a market around unused produce comes as an awareness of just how much food humans are wasting—and its environmental impact—is getting increased attention. In 2015, the EPA announced a goal to reduce food waste by half by 2030, in line with similar goals put forth by the United Nations.

Another business focused on the food waste problem is Imperfect Produce in San Francisco, which encourages people to “eat ugly” and sells subscription boxes of deformed produce that the startup says costs consumers between 30 percent and 50 percent less than grocery store prices.

Moseley says the new investment in Full Harvest will be used to make hires for technology, sales, and operations teams. Full Harvest will start to expand to buyers east of the Mississippi River. “We’re looking to get more of a hub-and-spoke model where we can do geolocation matching on the most local supply,” she says.

The biggest concern that buyers have is whether there is enough supply and that the quality is still high—ugliness notwithstanding. “Our product comes to them faster with fewer hands touching it,” Moseley says. “It doesn’t sit in a warehouse for four days.”

The startup also plans to use data analytics to provide buyers with better information on how much they’ve purchased and the cost savings they’ve received, she says. “We’re getting more sophisticated analysis to bring them insights … [and] collecting data that’s not publicly shared on the market like pricing, willingness to pay.”

For Moseley, Full Harvest is simply taking a page out of successful strategies used by companies like Airbnb and Uber: selling excess capacity that otherwise would not be used. Whether Full Harvest reaches that sort of success remains to be seen. But right now, Moseley says, she is “getting calls from some of the largest food and beverage companies asking how to help them be more sustainable, which is exciting.”

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