Full Harvest targets food waste by finding homes for imperfect, surplus produce

Food waste is a $2.6 trillion problem globally as some 40% of food is wasted annually. Full Harvest believes this is a distribution problem that can be solved by digitizing the produce supply chain.

The San Francisco-based company’s produce business-to-business marketplace provides a way for produce buyers and sellers to quickly close deals on surplus or imperfect crops in just a few clicks. It also creates an additional revenue stream for farmers.

Founder and CEO Christine Moseley told TechCrunch that a majority of produce companies are still using pen, paper and fax machines to do business.

“This is one of the most important industries, and we wanted to automate and bring the industry online to solve things that haven’t been solved before,” she added. “For example, there is a ton of paperwork involved in buying and selling, but by automating the onboarding process, that process that used to take weeks now take minutes.”

So Full Harvest got busy developing some technology that includes a spot marketplace with a matching algorithm and visibility so that buyers could see what suppliers had available. It also created a third-party audit and verification process to provide consistent specifications to reduce the average amount of rescued produce that is turned away. The industry average stands at 10%, while the company’s rejection average is 1% to 2%, Moseley said.

Within the past two years, Full Harvest’s impact on keeping food out of landfills grew five times, prompting the company to seek additional capital to keep the momentum going.

Today, the company announced $23 million in Series B funding. Telus Ventures led the round, with participation from new investors Rethink Impact, Citi Impact, Doon Capital, Stardust Equity and Portfolia Food & AgTech Fund, and existing investors, including Spark Capital, Cultivian Sandbox, Astia Fund and Radicle Growth. As part of the investment, Jay Crone, investment director at Telus, joined Full Harvest’s board of directors.

It’s been a while since we checked in with Full Harvest. We profiled the company at the beginning of its journey in 2016 and then again in 2017 when it raised $2 million. The company raised an additional $8.5 million in Series A funding in 2018. Including additional funding, the company now has $34.5 million in total funding.

The company works with big names in the food and beverage, processor and grower industries, like Danone North America, SVZ and Tanimura & Antle.

“The importance of building more sustainable businesses has never been more evident, especially for those in the food and beverage space,” said Surbhi Martin, vice president of Greek yogurt and functional nutrition for Danone North America. “By sourcing produce online through Full Harvest and selecting fruit for our products that would otherwise have gone to waste, we are answering the growing consumer demand for more sustainable food options.”

Full Harvest’s business model is to take a percentage of every transaction made on its marketplace. Between 2020 and 2021, the company tripled its revenue as it provided transparency into the supply chain, Moseley said. Back in 2018, Full Harvest had about eight employees; that has now grown to 35. The company also expanded geographically, including Canada.

With the new capital, Moseley intends to invest in technology development, triple the size of Full Harvest’s technology and product teams in 2022, continue to expand its footprint in North America and advance its data and market insights offerings, like produce availability, pricing, specifications, sustainable offerings, quality and forecasting support.

Full Harvest is not alone in addressing food waste and raising venture-backed capital for their efforts. Just this year, we’ve seen announcements from companies like:

While that list of companies is innovating technology in the produce space, Moseley considers Full Harvest unique in that its expertise is on the sustainable product side and it has proven itself as a leader in digitization of the produce supply chain, putting it ahead of the curve on both fronts.

Up next, the company plans to secure partnerships around logistics technology to scale further and expand on the SKUs it is able to offer.

“We saw significant increase in our technology and user experiences after finishing some automating processes that were previously offline for the industry,” she added. “We also expanded on our spot buy marketplace and hit a big milestone of 50 million pounds sold.”

Australian QuintessenceLabs grabs $25M to scale quantum-safe cybersecurity solutions

As computing power increases exponentially, the ability to secure our data against brute force and other types of attacks gets more complicated, with the scale and sophistication of cyberattacks continuing to challenge companies’ ability to implement effective data access control and encryption.

To increase data security, Canberra, Australia-based quantum cybersecurity solution provider QuintessenceLabs safeguards sensitive data through its quantum random number generators and advanced data access control software. The startup has now raised $25 million in a Series B round to enhance its security in quantum solutions.

The latest funding was led by Main Sequence and TELUS Ventures, with participation from Mizuho Financial Group-backed InterValley Ventures and Capital Property Group. 

QuintessenceLabs will use the Series B funding to expand its customer base, including private and public organizations in financial services, cloud providers, government agencies and defense sectors globally, CEO and founder of QuintessenceLabs Vikram Sharma told TechCrunch. 

QuintessenceLabs uses quantum physics to build data security tools and has developed qStream, a quantum random number generator (QRNG) that provides encryption keys with full entropy, which means they are truly random, Sharma explained. The market for this type of technology was small when QuintessenceLabs started in 2008, and it took time to mature and bring it to a commercial level, he said. 

“We have spent more than a decade getting the technology right and preparing for commercial adoption,” Sharma said. 

The company sells its product to global corporations, Sharma said. In the last year, one of its significant achievements was making the approved products list for a $2 billion program run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, focused on strengthening data protection across participating agencies, Sharma told TechCrunch.

The Australia-headquartered company opened an office in the U.S. in 2013 with an initial team of three people to make a more significant commitment to the U.S.

As the U.S. is by far the largest cybersecurity market, QuintessenceLabs will continue to grow its team in the U.S. over the next two to three years, Sharma said. 

The U.K. is the second-largest cybersecurity market and somewhat similar to Australia in terms of market dynamics, legal systems, and business culture, according to Sharma. In the first half of next year, QuintessenceLabs plans to set up an office in the U.K. that is also an ideal location for its EMEA headquarters, Sharma said, adding that it is in discussions with several U.K. institutions for strategic partnerships. In parallel, QuintessenceLabs is developing partnerships in Japan and India, Sharma noted. 

QuintessenceLabs deferred its growth plans to 12-15 months due to the uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, Sharma said. The company will implement a planned geographic and sectoral expansion strategy as the world starts to reopen around 2022, he mentioned. 

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO recently released a report on Australia’s quantum industry in which it forecasts an $86 billion global market size in the quantum industry by 2040. The quantum communications and cybersecurity market is expected to account for about $16 billion globally. Australia’s quantum technology is projected to generate more than $4 billion in revenues and 16K new jobs by 2040, as per the report. 

The company has 50 employees as of September 2021. 

“Safeguarding data – our most valuable resource – has never been more critical, and we look forward to this exciting new growth stage,” said CEO and founder of QuintessenceLabs Vikram Sharma. 

“As computing power increases exponentially, the tools needed to secure critical data and assets must stay several steps ahead,” said Bill Bartee, Partner of Main Sequence. “QuintessenceLabs is a global leader in developing quantum-based cybersecurity tools that help protect sovereign and commercially sensitive business and provide customers with a critical layer of protection.” 

Rise Gardens grows with $9M Series A to help anyone be an indoor farmer

As more consumers embrace plant-based diets and sustainable food practices, Rise Gardens is giving anyone the ability to have a green thumb from the comfort of their own home.

The Chicago-based indoor, smart hydroponic company raised $9 million in an oversubscribed Series A round, led by TELUS Ventures, with existing investors True Ventures and Amazon Alexa Fund and new investor Listen Ventures joining in. The company has a total of $13 million in venture-backed investments since Rise was founded in 2017, founder and CEO Hank Adams told TechCrunch.

Though he began in 2017, Adams, who has a background in sports technology, said he spent a few years working on prototypes before launching the first products in 2019. Rise’s IoT-connected systems are designed to grow vegetables, herbs and microgreens year-round.

Customers can choose between three system levels and get started with their first garden for about $300.

There is a “kind of joyousness” in being able to grow something, but people are looking for assistance because they don’t want to get into a hobby that will become demanding or stressful, Adams said. As a result, Rise’s accompanying mobile app monitors water levels and plant progress, then alert users when it’s time to water, fertilize or care for their plants.

“People are paying attention to food, and they care about what they eat,” he added. “Then the global pandemic played a part in this, with people leaning into growing their own food.”

In fact, customers leaned into growing food so much that Rise Gardens saw its sales eclipse seven figures in 2020, and gardens sold out three times during the year. Customers purchased close to 100,000 plants and have harvested 50,000.

The company estimates it helped keep more than 2,000 pounds of food from being wasted and saved 250,000 gallons of water since launching in 2019.

The concept of an indoor farm is not new. Incumbents include AeroGarden, AeroGrow, which was acquired by Scotts-Miracle Gro last November, and Click & Grow. Rise is among a new crop of startups that have raised funds that include Gardyn.

However, Rise Gardens is differentiating itself from those competitors by making its gardens from powder-coated metals and glass and are designed to be a focal point in the room. It is also offering ways for people to experiment with their gardens.

“We wanted something that would be flexible because once you have mastered a hobby, you will get bored,” he added. “You can start at one level and they swap out tray lids to grow more densely. We have a microgreens kit you can add, or add plant supports for tomatoes and peppers. You can also build a trellis to vine snap peas.”

Adams will focus the Series A dollars into product development, inventory, manufacturing, expansion into new markets and building up the team, especially in the areas of customer service and marketing. Rise has about 25 employees and plans to bring on another eight this year.

In addition, Rise Gardens’ products will soon be available on Amazon — its first channel outside of its website. The company is also expanding into schools in what Adams calls “version 2.0” of the school garden.

When Rich Osborn, president and managing partner of TELUS Ventures, evaluated the indoor garden space, he told TechCrunch that Adams and his team rose to the top of the list because of their background, data experience and syndication with Amazon.

Not only was consumer demand there for these kinds of products, but the sustainability and social impact created from these kinds of investments couldn’t be overemphasized, he said.

Nishan Majarian, co-founder and CEO of TELUS Agriculture, said he sees a future where there is a spectrum of food growth, and crop management will be at the plant level.

“Ever since Climate Corp. was acquired by Monsanto, there has been a massive influx into agriculture to get to the next billion-dollar exit,” Majarian added. “Agrifood is the last segmented supply chain. Every crop is different, every market is different. That makes it local, complex and fertile soil — pun intended — for startups who get capital to solve those issues and scale.”