19.2.2018 Press Release -
There is simply no way around it - regardless of language, nationality or religion, to be human is to eat. Sharing food is one of our most universal expressions of love. Consider how even the passing waft of freshly-baked baladi bread can conjure a sense of wellbeing and home. But in a world of technological advancement and virtual interaction, the once-intimate and connection-rich experience of eating has been usurped by fast, convenient, cheap and commodified.
When was the last time you considered the farmer whose dirt-caked hands grew the food on your plate, or the last time a half-digested piece of lettuce filled you with a sense of connection to the wellness of this planet?
The journey of real food from sprout to plate is awe-inspiring. But study after study shows that we humans waste an astonishing amount of perfectly nutritious food every year - 2.9 trillion pounds of it. As over 821 million worldwide go to bed hungry and our planet is rocked by climate disaster, the reality of so much waste is unconscionable. By 2050 there are likely to be an additional 2.5 billion people on this planet. With widespread globalization and technological advancement, change and innovation are inevitable, yet there is no guarantee that the trajectory of human progress will be equitably upward unless we come together to make intelligent and sustainable decisions for all.
Such a possibility is within reach. Gone are the days of profit-myopic business and band-aid CSR; now is the time of the global impact economy. Consumers are demanding that businesses do good, better. As Blackrock CEO Larry Fink recently advised: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Two years ago, Bon Harvest was born of a desire to do just that - to honor the possibility of a more nutritious future for all through farmer empowerment and a reduction in farm-level waste, of which there is an estimated 20.2 billion tons worldwide. We worked hand-in-hand with almost 70 farms and 40 restaurants in and around New York City to create a market for ugly produce. Our model disrupted legacy supplier dominance and worked to democratize access to food. Our on-demand, B2B platform enabled communities to buy hyper-local produce in an unprecedented way.
In the process, we came to understand that at the farm-level, wasted food is symptomatic of a broader set of challenges faced by many farmers, including: volatility in crop prices due to erratic climate or government policy; expensive and unnecessarily complex AgTech solutions that fail to deliver results; lack of supply-chain transparency; waste-inducing aesthetic standards for produce driven by consumer aversion to ‘ugly’ produce; labor shortage; food contamination and contamination scares; and the shockingly high rate of late payments and canceled orders from buyers. In all, farm-level wasted food reflects the undergirding opacity and damaged trust that has taken root as the buying and selling of food has become increasingly transactional and impersonal.
But this doesn’t have to be our story.
Around the world, widespread calls reverberate for radical changes in food systems and policy - from farmers, buyers, consumers, and governments alike. Since 2016, the lessons we’ve learned along the way - along with the enthusiastic support of our farmers, buyers, and investors - convinced us that we can still do more, and even better.
So we are making a bold pivot. We will no longer operate as a distributor for ugly produce; though ugly produce is still very much within our sights, our scope has broadened. We are out to revolutionize transparency and sustainability in the food industry, and, hand-in-hand with some inspiring partners, we are taking exciting steps to do so. Our approach is three-fold: first we create easy-to-use, affordable blockchain inventory systems to enable streamlined communication and payment between farmers and buyers, decreasing wasted food and increasing trust and efficiency; second, information shared by our farmers informs a real-time Bon Harvest Exchange, an anonymous digital aggregate of local prices - or market reader - that matches supply with demand to drive profit for farmers, remove costly and opaque intermediaries, and capitalize upon prime windows for perishable produce; third, we use our technology and network as a platform to highlight our farmers’ stories, building community and revitalizing connection.
We are not just a technology company, we are storytellers who use technology to rekindle wonderment and connection, reminding us of the everyday magic that sustains us all: food and love.
But our technology is pretty exciting, too. Blockchain - “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way” - creates transparency across borders, reviving a sense of trust and returning a guarantee of fairness and efficiency to markets plagued by opacity and waste. Widespread adoption of blockchain technology could lead to stabilization of food prices, especially in emerging markets where intermediaries - middlemen who have historically controlled the bulk of supply-chain profit - are made obsolete.
Our founder, Teymour el Derini, knows firsthand the challenges faced by emerging market farmers, as an Egyptian-American whose earliest lessons were gleaned from his family’s farm and community, and in his grandmother's kitchen. In these moments, seeds were planted that grew into a life-long appreciation for the human connection to fresh food and our responsibility to the earth and to those who dedicate their lives to the nourishment of us all.
It is with great anticipation that we introduce this new Bon Harvest to the world. Since 2016, our farmer and restaurant partners have been invaluable in guiding our efforts, as together we worked to envision and manifest a waste-free future. We have learned what farmers need, what buyers seek, and what consumers desire, and that is exactly what we plan to deliver - for farms big and small, all around the world. In returning to our roots as a tech company, we will work to create a more efficient and thriving agriculture industry. Our team of nimble, innovative thinkers are joining hands with farmers across the US, with the utmost excitement for the prospect of adapting our software and approach to empower farmers in emerging markets around the world as well.
In a world challenged by climate change, economic uncertainty, and a rapidly growing population, the prospect of a stable, transparent, and waste-free food industry is too great an opportunity to squander. As we embark upon the next chapter of this shared journey, we find our chance at a more beautiful future in the calloused hands of farmers around the world. It is time that their voices be heard. Let’s breathe life back into our relationships to food and all who grow it, relationships that could be so much more than transactional.
Food connects us to the immense, interconnected web that is life - a symbol of our innate belonging to this world in contrast to the increasing isolation of our modern lives. Knowing this, we proudly take a stand amongst a growing cohort of impact-positive movers and shakers, working together to create the future we all know deep down to be possible. Together, we are empowering an exciting shift that not only eliminates ugly produce waste but wasted food in general, improving livelihoods for food growers while allowing food eaters to become more personally connected to and invested in the impact of their food choices. We get out of bed each morning excited to contribute to building a future of intelligent and responsible consumption, equanimity, respect, and tasty food.
BON HARVEST is passionate about life that is vibrant and nourishing for all, a future where waste is minimized or non-existent and every food-eater feels personally connected to their food, from farm to fork. Join us as we honor the love infused into the smell of a home-cooked meal. Join us in living the possibility that we can all do a little more - a little better.
With gratitude to our sources:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
2016 ReFED (Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data)
Iansiti, Marco, and Karim R. Lakhani. "The Truth about Blockchain." Harvard Business Review 95, no. 1 (January–February 2017): 118–127.