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New Crop of Companies Reaping Profits From Wasted Food

surplAndrew Northrup, a “produce hustler” at Cerplus, carries strawberries left over at the end of a farmer’s market in South Berkeley, Calif.

“I’m convinced there’s a business that’s a kind of Uber for refrigerated trucks,” said Jesse Fink, a founder of the travel site Priceline who now calls himself a food waste evangelist.

By Elizabeth D. Herman
For The New York Times
May 24, 2016


He cited examples like the Forager Project, Misfit and Back to the Roots. “Many of these emerging brands incorporate food waste and upcycling products” — using once-discarded materials as components of new products — “as part of their brand portfolio.” Others, he said, are working to solve the unusual distribution and logistics challenges posed in using food scraps.

Some of the new businesses can bootstrap their operations, since they are essentially taking inexpensive or free scraps from others. But many have taken outside investment.

Take Cerplus, for instance, which raised a small amount from friends and family investors late last year and got $20,000 from Y Combinator in exchange for securities if Cerplus has a financing round or sells for more than $100 million. The company started in January as a sort of online go-between, linking farms and wholesalers with food on the verge of going to waste with restaurants and other businesses.

“We let people know what’s available and offer a pretty good discount,” said Zoe Wong, the co-founder and chief executive.

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