Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin made her pitch for the world to #LoveUglyFood at this year’s TEDxManhattan conference, and now a new start-up has picked up the hashtag and started running. Imperfect is the latest venture from young food waste pioneers Ben Simon and Ben Chesler. Simon’s Food Recovery Network launched in 2011 and has recovered 700,000 pounds of excess food from 127 college dining halls around the country that would've otherwise headed to a landfill and donated that to those in need.
But Imperfect will attack the problem of food waste closer to the source. According to USDA data, American farms currently throw away 6 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables deemed too ugly for the market. So Simon and Chesler began buying up that unattractive produce at deep discount. According to Chesler Imperfect expects to collect and sell 400,000 pounds of produce through both home delivery and in a California grocery chain in the first six months.
Right now the startup is sourcing from big farms in California’s drought-stricken Salinas and central valleys, which allows Imperfect to serve another function as well—water conservation. They estimate that each pound of produce they sell saves between 25 and 50 gallons of water that would otherwise be used to grow more fruits and vegetables.