As the company founder explains in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food, sometimes too much of a good thing – including market potential – can be a bad if entrepreneurs spread themselves too thin to make the measurable impact necessary to validate a concept and fuel future growth.
‘We need to change how … food is processed’
The idea for Nature Preserve came to founder Anantha Peramuna when he became fed up with the fruit and vegetables a co-worker used to make smoothies spoiling and making the office “smell like a garbage can.” He realized that if he dehydrated the produce into powder there was less waste and it was easier to make a smoothie.
Wondering if the same technique could help alleviate the 45% of produce that is wasted globally, Peramuna learned that while it is easy to buy surplus produce, it is not easy to process it because facilities may be far from the source of the produce or there may not be availability at the facility to process the produce when it is ripe.
His “elegant solution” was to take the processing facility to the farms, retailers or other points in the supply chain by shrinking an entire facility into a mobile unit that could dehydrate or puree produce on location.
“We are on a mission to change how the food is being processed around the world. So, we are miniaturizing these big processing plants into a small mobile trailer so the food could be processed anywhere in the supply chain,” he said.
“The beauty of our tech is it could go to a farm, it could go to a packaging facility, a supermarket or wherever and get the surplus and turn it into a shelf-stable ingredient” that could be sold at a higher price point, creating a new revenue stream and saving food at the same time, he added.
‘We really needed to figure out where to focus first’
While Nature Preserve’s idea sounded viable, the team wasn’t sure where to begin to build a business that could efficiently execute the technology and bring the biggest impact, which is why it applied for a coveted spot in SOSV’s Food-X accelerator program.
“We knew we had a cool piece of tech that could provide a solution throughout the food value chain, but we really needed to figure out where to focus first. So, we needed help with business development and we needed to be in front of the right people to understand … the food value chain. So, that is one of the reasons we joined Food-X. We knew they had a huge network and knew they would put us in front of the right people,” Peramuna explained.
Raising funds during a pandemic
Working with Food-X, the team finetuned blueprints and tested individual components of the mobile processing plant, and is now raising funds to create and pilot the first unit over the next six to 12 months.
As the company navigates its first fundraising round, the team discovered another benefit of working with SOSV and its promise of follow-on investment not only validates the business but gives other potential investors confidence in its success.
“Having someone who will do a follow-on investment means that a lead investor who will come on board will come on with much more confidence,” Peramuna said. “It makes life a little bit easier to find a lead investor when you have a follow-on investment committed to the company.”