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Episode 132: Food Waste Solutions Come in Small Packages (Transcript)


[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's Nothing Wasted Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.


[00:00:27] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 and I'm with Aidan Mouat from Hazel Technology. Hazel [inaudible 00:00:34] Technologies was developed to protect the quality shelf life of produce throughout the entire supply chain. Welcome, Aidan. Thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:44] Aidan Mouat: Thank you for having me. A pleasure to be here.

[00:00:47] Liz: Please, tell us a bit about your background and how you found your way to Hazel.

[00:00:52] Aidan: Sure. My background is largely chemistry. I did my Ph.D. at Northwestern in 2016. We started the company in 2015, myself and several other co-founders from various other programs at Northwestern University. I was not, in any way, an agricultural scientist, but I would say that my Ph.D. touched on matters of sustainability chemistry. At the time, I was trying to develop new catalytic systems to convert renewable feedstocks into platform chemicals.

The other side of the clean energy equation is as we use less gasoline and as we use less fuels derived from petroleum sources, we also end up with shortages of critical platform chemicals like ethylene and butadiene, things that we make plastic and rubber out of. If we can't figure out a way to convert, say, bio-alcohol into a similar feedstock, then we find ourselves in a material shortage even as we greenify our fuel systems.

I was involved in that for a while. That led me to become a fellow for the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, ISEN. While I was at ISEN, I got the bit of a broader survey of challenges in sustainability and major world systems. I settled into a thesis at that time that's, if you look at most world verticals; energy, transportation, medicine, commerce, we've had pretty disruptive changes to the normal course of business in each of those verticals in the last 30 years or so. But if you look at agriculture, it's a bit of a different story.

It's the largest business by volume on the planet. It's the only business that touches every single person on the planet every day of their lives. I would actually argue that we're at the tail end of the last great revolution in agriculture. Which, to me, was the creation of the Haber-Bosch process in the early 20th century. It's how we convert nitrogen into ammonia.

We use the ammonia to enrich fertilizers. We use those fertilizers to enhance our crop production. To give you a sense of scale, it's estimated that that one chemical process is so important to our world around us today that it's estimated that one out of every two people on the planet alive today is only alive because of calories generated by that process. Doubling the rate of population growth in the span of a century is a truly transformative event.

Now we're left with the aftermath of it, which is that we have a food system focused on overproduction, not efficiency and we have a new frontier problem and it's food waste. I got very interested in that issue. The scale of which is similarly massive because it scales with commercial agriculture. About a third of everything that is produced on the planet each year goes to waste. In the era of climate change, they put a price tag on that.

It contributes about 8% to 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. If it was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the US and China. Very, very big problem. I got very interested in the idea that chemistry was how we transform the food supply the first time. Saw that there might be an opportunity to leverage a cleaner and more sustainable category of biochemistry to try to harness the efficiency side of that equation.

That was really the genesis of the idea behind Hazel Technologies. Myself and our other technical Co-Founder, Dr. Adam Preslar, we got together and we came up with this idea of using scalable, sustainable human, and planet-friendly materials to control the atmospheric chemistry of storage environments. We want it to be able to do this in a way where we didn't require producers to change their existing practices. We didn't want them to build a whole new supply chain to accommodate a new technology.

We wanted something drop-in that could service today's operation and simply add a new layer of technology to the existing supply chain, where we could utilize that to control shelf life and perishable food. We have this non-contact, non-invasive, highly sustainable, and scalable system that allows us to target specific challenges in perishable food shelf life by mitigating, essentially, the biochemistry of the atmosphere around that food.

In doing so, we target spoilage waste with the goal of eliminating it entirely and bringing us towards a zero-waste food system. That is the very long and circuitous answer to your question.

[00:05:45] Liz: What an amazing journey. What you said is fascinating because you're having such a great impact. The fact that your technology is super easy to implement and easy to implement into supply chains, can you talk more about that, what it actually is and why it's so simple?

[00:06:08] Aidan: Absolutely. I think the way that we look at it is that, from the vision that we wanted to enable, it was critical to create a solution that didn't require two things. It didn't require the reconfiguration of existing food chain systems, because that's a very expensive proposition.

It's also not clear how sustainable that transition would truly be. Because if you start to add in power requirements, if you start to add in engineering requirements, you really are adding things into your life cycle analysis. That means that it's much more difficult to get to a zero-carbon footprint and, conversely, even more difficult to get to carbon savings.

The other component of that is that I think it's a common misconception, looking at the food system from a post-industrialized perspective, that's everywhere in the world. That is the state of commercial agriculture. The truth is that only a very minority of agricultural production occurs in post-industrial areas.

The US is a major food producer and we are indeed post-industrial. But if you were to go to many areas of Mexico, if you were to Honduras, if you were to go to central Asian Parliament, if you were to go to smallholder farms in China, the landscape of food production looks tremendously different.

This idea of taking US-centric style industrialization and mechanizing more of the food supply chain in order to induce savings, I think belies the idea that human capital remains one of the most valuable assets in most countries in the world. It just doesn't work out economically. If it doesn't work out economically, it can't work out environmentally.

We were very, very passionate about ensuring that our solution could take root in as many places as possible without requiring them to invest in fancier engineering, more equipment, and so forth. In essence, we wanted a simpler solution to the problem. What that comes down to is being able to foster effectively, and with great precision, control the fundamental biochemistry of metabolism and other processes in perishable food.

I'll give you a great tactical example, just to make this less abstract, basically. One of our more popular products is what we call an inbox sachet. It's about the size of a sugar packet, and it's like an inch by an inch, something like that. It weighs about a quarter of gram. That little sugar packet is sized to treat a master case of most categories of specialty crop weighing up to about 50 or 60 pounds.

Very small footprint, relatively large amount of biomass that we can treat. What that sachet does is, when it's placed in the box-- and any operator anywhere can put a sachet in a box. They don't have to perform any active chemistry. They don't have to have a machine do it, whatever. It begins to slowly emit an active ingredient into the atmosphere around that produce. In this case, it's a compound referred to as an ethylene inhibitor.

Ethylene is an aging hormone. It's released by most fruits and vegetables during the aging process. It triggers deleterious effects in the aging process of those fruits and vegetables that, ultimately, lead to loss of quality spoilage and microbial activity. If we have a very small presence of an ethylene inhibitor in the atmosphere around that food, we can effectively arrest those processes. We can take control of the metabolism of those fruits and vegetables.

Then we can extend shelf life during the storage and transit process from within the actual pack containers throughout the entire duration of that process. We provide the maximum amount of protection from end to end. From point of production to point of consumption. The key features there are, we don't treat on a one-to-one basis. Meaning, we don't have to treat every single piece of food as an individual object that requires throughput, which means that we can access bulk[unintelligible 00:10:14], which is good.

We treat the atmosphere, not the food itself, so there's no new chemicals, there's no residue. We are functionalizing existing spaces, boxes, containers, warehouses, rather than requiring our customers to purchase new spaces to utilize the technology. Those are the key features.

[00:10:34] Liz: That makes sense. With what you're talking about, Aidan, do you find yourself partnering with certain types of produce companies? Does the sachet or the chemistry work better with certain produce?

[00:10:48] Aidan: Yes. For example, we don't do any commodity crop. Which I know probably is not in your definition of produce, but I like to make sure that we set the boundaries. We're not doing grains, corn, wheat, soy. Those have a very different set of requirements for storage that we're not a particularly valuable operator in that space. Different categories of fruits and vegetables often require different biochemical approaches.

We have several different categories of active ingredient that we use to target specific challenges in perishable shelf. Ethylene inhibition is one category. Antimicrobial is another category, retarding the speed and proliferation of molds and fungus, and so forth. Anti-sprouting is another category, and so forth and so on.

Between those various buckets of technology, we're able to cover the very wide range of fruits and vegetables. Even including things you wouldn't traditionally think of the specialty crops, like wheat and vegetables that have these sprouting-type problems. That product is coming out next year, I believe.

We've adopted this platform approach that does allow us to treat a very, very wide range. I think more so than almost any other provider on the market today. Really, it becomes a question of one factor, how do we find the right sachet, pad, paper, or whatever we need to do to fit the practices of that particular crop. Once we have that fit, then we can go out there. We can sell that product.

[00:12:20] Liz: That's great. Do you see potential applications for this to be used in other fresh foods, like meat or fish?

[00:12:28] Aidan: Yes, absolutely. That's really the next frontier for us. We started off in crop because you got to start somewhere [laughs]. There's no shortage of issues in fresh crop. But looking at this idea of delivering high-value, sustainable biochemistry fruit packaging type systems, the next logical step I think is, say, cut proteins.

There's a microbial challenge in cut proteins where if we can overcome the proliferation of microbes on meats, fishes, and so forth, we can definitely extend best by dates by four to six days. There you have a pretty significant shelf-life enhancement, just from doing that kind of crossover.

We ultimately have an interest in all categories of perishable food. We are only about six years old. We're at the start of our journey but I think that's going to be the next thing on the horizon.

[00:13:18] Liz: Fantastic. What other environmental benefits are you seeing with Hazel that go beyond reducing food waste?

[00:13:27] Aidan: Yes, there's a direct calculus to be done on volume of food waste reduction leading to greenhouse gas reduction. For example, last year we protected about 3.2 billion pounds of food. We ultimately saved, I think the number is about 600 million pounds from going to waste. That, in turn, prevents the emissions of up to about 250,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. This year we're more than on track to double that. We're going to treat around 6.5 billion and we're going to save around 600,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents.

There is a direct environmental calculus to food waste that is very important to keep an eye on. There's also some other things that we're fairly excited about. One is how we use reduction. Our technologies enable our customers to use less stringent cold chain requirements to keep the same quality parameters. Which in turn means less wattage per unit fruit or vegetable. That comes with net power savings, and then, therefore, also in that energy and carbon savings.

The other piece of it, I think, is actually chemical load reduction. I know it's weird to think about me sitting here and talking about biochemistry and saying, "Hey, look, we're going to deploy biochemistry and it's going to reduce the amount of chemicals in food." The truth is that post-harvest challenges are often overcome with the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, that are sprayed or fogged immediately after harvest.

Then there are potential accumulation concerns after that. I'm not talking about anybody getting poisoned out there. I'm just saying that there is a non-zero quantity of chemical usage. If you can use a system like ours, atmospherically, in the storage environments, you can eliminate the requirements that you have to do those kinds of sprays and Fogg's in the post-harvest time window. We actually, over time, expect to see a net reduction of chemical load in the food supply as a result of the proliferation of our technology. Those are some of the other external benefits that we we're seeing.

[00:15:33] Liz: Those are huge. I also read that you and your team are fabulous at putting customers first and doing all that you can to help them succeed beyond working with you. Can you talk a little bit about what onboarding looks like for your customers in Hazel?

[00:15:51] Aidan: Yes. First of all, it's very high praise, so thank you very much. Yes, we very much do. We have in our mission vision values document. We have four core values and three of them stand out of the principle core value, which is, really, that we're customer-centric. I'm a big believer in solving market problems. Not in pushing my own agenda, not in pushing my own technology. I just want something that works for the people that need it.

Yes, we are definitely what you would call a positive sales' company. What that really means is we view our customers as partners more than we view them as just playing purchasers. There really isn't any such thing as an off-the-rack shelf life enhancement technology. Reason being is that every supply chain has got unique elements. It's got its own length. It's got some duration. You've got variable harvest timing. You've got variable harvest quality.

Let's say your buyers or retailers, they're going to want different things in different seasons. Sometimes it comes from different geographies, et cetera. We need to be sensitive to that and many of our customers are our multinationals. I have a hard time pointing to any particular US company that we work with it that doesn't also have some kind of sister company in, say, Mexico, or Chile, or Peru where the other half of the North American growing cycle takes place, because we can only grow during the warm months in North America. They can only grow during the warm month in South America. You put those two together and you have a complete economic cycle.

As a result, we find ourselves working hand in hand with our customers. Our business development team is really, part technical, part business development. They spend their time with our customers designing the initial test outs to show where our technology is best applied in their supply chain to ensure that they're getting the right benefit from it. Then monitoring over time what benefits are they seeing. Are they having unique challenges during the harvest cycle? If so, how can we address that through optimizing our application for the pressures of that particular season?

At this point, we're old enough. We've seen all kinds of examples. We've seen issues caused by hurricane. You get primary damage, then you get problems with the soil and the growing conditions for the next couple of years.

That causes a high degree of variability. We saw issues with problems with climate, really, as early as a couple of years ago already. Issues in the US stone fruit production environment and so forth. We've got to work specially with those customers in order to ensure that they can maximize their yield. Recent political issues. In the Trump years, there was a huge kerfluffle when we first started imposing tariffs on China.

They basically refused to import US cherries for the rest of the season. That's a huge blow and those customers saw volumes literally cut in half and had to come up with alternative supply chain routes and so forth. We're, of course, there to say, "Hey, we can help you figure out a way to transition this to domestic or find a new market. You could reach it because you could use this technology to help you out." Stuff like that. We've seen every version of it and we stand by our customer's side. That's what we're here for. They don't just buy the product. They buy a relationship that allows them to tell us what they need and allows us to come in and help them.

[00:19:10] Liz: That's great. I'm sure by now, like you said, you've been doing this a little while and the data that you're getting is amazing thing. You'll start to see trends and, like you said, deal with supply chain issues as they're happening, give options and solutions. That's awesome.

[00:19:28] Aidan: Yes, I would even go farther than that. I think it's maybe a common perspective to think, "Surely someone out there is collecting high quality, impartial waste data." There's been a lot of efforts. Like the NRDC writes its reports, the FAO writes the reports, and so forth and so on, but there's also a lot of contradictory information in the market. A great example is, for the longest time the FAO has said, "Hey, we see two different patterns of waste".

In post-industrial countries, we tend to see waste accumulate at the consumer end because the sorting and the picking and the packing practices are very strong at the farm gate end. Then in pre-industrial countries, we typically see more wastage occur at the pre-farm gate and fly chain management side because the technologies aren't quite as sophisticated in those environments. That end report came out a couple of years ago. It's from Santa Clara University and was in 2018.

That said that even in California, we're probably underestimating pre-fund gate waste by as much as three or four times. What that means then is you go, "Wait a minute. If we've drawn all these systematic conclusions based off of what data are reported, and here we're finding out that those data cannot possibly be accurate, then our entire picture of what food wastes worldwide is skewed in terms of how we can positively approach the market and solve the problem".

As we gather these data, we have the unique capacity to anonymize so that our customers don't feel like they're being attacked for understanding their supply chains and making better their wastage. We have the ability to anonymize and aggregate those data into a truly high-quality, granular, and roundup dataset about what's really happening with food waste in these key fresh crop channels.

In doing so, yes, there's definitely a predictive element, which makes us better at our job. But there's also a sustainability in ESG requirement for reporting, which says that we can actually look at that and assess, yes, we're leaving the planet in a better place than when we started. As far as I'm aware, there's no other company that's actually doing that right now. We end up possessing those data and we actually have to do some information sharing with it. I think that's the importance of it as well.

[00:21:46] Liz: Definitely. That data is so important. Like you said, I don't think a lot of people are doing that, so it's valuable.

[00:21:54] Aidan: I would agree.

[00:21:55] Liz: You talked a little bit about this, but do you have to switch your formula based on the size of the shipments or anything like that? Is there a lot of nuances with that?

[00:22:06] Aidan: There's not a zero number of nuances. We don't want to customize a product for every single new application. I like to call it, "One size fits most." We definitely do have to pay attention to the scale of the application, where the application is going, what type of prop or food we're treating, et cetera. Right now, we're doing about 15 individual crops, give or take. I think, overall, now there's probably four or five different form factors per chemistry and usually between one and three formulations.

You do have some variability there. It's containable from a manufacturing perspective, but we do rely on our technical team to optimize for the specific application. The answer is neither, really, yes nor no. But for sure we do have to do a lot of optimization to ensure that the customer is getting the best usage out of the formulation that we do select for them.

[00:23:10] Liz: Absolutely. But like you said, it's templated enough that it's scalable and works well--

[00:23:16] Aidan: Yes. We have a very good handle on the production side of things. Nobody ever asks about like, "Hey, how's your chemical engineering going?" But, yes, [inaudible 00:23:24]. Nobody cares, it's fine. That's a company problem. But the whole point of it is that, indeed, because we have such a sophisticated engineering process for the production, we can easily make those switch-outs and not kill our ability to actually sell the product at a price that's reasonable.

[00:23:44] Liz: Got you. That's important. I know you're B2B, but have you moved into the B2C space at all yet? It seems like there's so many applications that could work.

[00:23:54] Aidan: Yes, it's funny. We definitely have plans for a consumer product launch. When you say, "Have we moved into the B2C space at all?" That's a very interesting way of forming the question, because you could argue, "No, we don't yet have a consumer product." But I would actually argue that, yes. I mean, we're laying the groundwork for consumer recognition of the problem and of the awareness that we're trying to provide a solution that we think is compatible with the desires of the consumer market.

We've got retailers that are advertising the use of our products to their customers. We've co-created skews of different product categories that are co-branded with our branding. Those are getting in front of the customers and the customers are making purchasing decisions based off of whether or not our technology is being employed to more sustainably enhanced the shelf-life of their food. We view that as the rise on Defra, so to speak, of launching a consumer product, because we think that that creates the question that you just asked. Which is, "Hey, how do I get my hands on that? I want to use this, how do I get my hands on it?"

That's exactly what we're aiming for. I think within the next couple of years, you'll see the consumer product launch. Right now, we're just trying to keep that communication channel open, and build that awareness and build that market for us, also.

[00:25:17] Liz: Absolutely. You're definitely heading in the right direction there. How about the pandemic? Can you talk a little bit about how that has affected your work?

[00:25:29] Aidan: Yes. Really, it's a new world paradigm. The near-term effects were pretty interesting. Luckily, we don't do a lot of food service businesses, meaning folks that are supplying restaurants. Because obviously in March of 2020 within the first quarter after that, retail-focused food sales fell off like 70% relative to 2019 numbers. But interestingly enough, fresh retail numbers, grocery retail numbers bounced up very high.

Depending on the category, somewhere between about 20 and 40%.

The obvious conclusion there is people are not eating out as much, but they are definitely continuing to buy food. They're buying it from the grocery stores. I think we could all come to that conclusion, but I felt it important to point out the obvious. Our customers, some of them took hits in the retail business and that was very painful for them. There wasn't much we could do about that, but a lot of those same businesses they decided they had to push more volume through their retail sales channels. Luckily, there was more consumers there to buy. We were there to help them with that.

Logistics and shipping since then has been topsy-turvy in one direction or another. We have a lot of customers that are really playing this game between air shipment and water shipment. You're probably fully aware of all the problems with the ports right now in the US. Obviously, there's a global shipping backlog that's causing water shipment problems and price hypes. At the same time, air shipment remains a very expensive option and it can't be engaged in for most categories of crop, so customers need a little extra edge to ensure that they can hold their stuff as long as they need to hold their stuff and still be able to sell it with a reasonable guarantee of quality to their customers.

We've been there to help them with that process. I liken our business to supply chain insurance. Whatever goes wrong, whether it's cold chain breaks, whether it's unexpected delays, whether it's unintentional crosstalk between different categories of produce that should never have been shipped together, et cetera. Our products smooth out those bumps in the road and generally makes the outcome better regardless of the source of the supply chain interruption. I think we've proven that a lot with our growth during the pandemic. I've been very pleased, personally speaking, to be one of the solution providers out there in the market that's really helping customers with this very significant pain point right now.

[00:28:07] Liz: For sure. What a heck of a tagline too that would be, Aidan, right now.

[00:28:12] Aidan: [laughs] Look, we're doing the best we can. We grew. Our business grew two and a half X, headcount and revenue this year. The reason for that I think is that, "Hey, look, pandemic is affecting people", but the truth is that we're a solution. We're a real solution provider doing a service for the market that is necessary. I think there's no better proof than that and I said that with no small amount of pride. But that just says that we're doing what we need to be doing.

[00:28:42] Liz: No, absolutely. A challenge like this for people to become aware of solutions that companies like yours provide.

[00:28:49] Aidan: Yes. That's always been important to us. I love doing podcasts like this. I really love everybody that's out there trying to open vocation channels between what can often be viewed as a very opaque and complicated food system on the supply side with the stuff that you're putting in your body every day. Which I think consumers have every right to know and be inquisitive about that. Our perspective is that we view ourselves as stewards of the public conscience, meaning we want to be as transparent as humanly possible so that we don't commit any of the sins that have made people distrust their food over time. That requires us to be active participants in the conversation. I really love having an opportunity to talk about it.

[00:29:33] Liz: It's great to hear about it as well. On the business side, I know you're growing by leaps and bounds like you said. How's the capital funding part of your world been going?

[00:29:45] Aidan: Reasonably well if you've seen the news this year. We had some great fundraising this year. We raised about $70 million in our [unintelligible 00:29:54] with some really impressive partners globally. Of course, the idea there is that we've always viewed ourselves as needing to be a global company.

there is that we've always viewed ourselves as needing to be a global company, so this is a major step forward in building out our international business presence.

We have the goal by 2025 of, basically, taking the product into every major agronomic center on the planet and being commercialized there to grow for their business. That's been going great. I think that the appetite that has emerged in the investor market specifically for actual climate change technologies and ESG technologies speaks very, very well of the market trend that is pointed firmly in the direction of making positive progress all over the world for this type of thing.

Yes, I thank our investors dearly and we look forward to the next opportunity to engage with investors in that market. There's a lot of activity going on right now and I think it's going to the right direction.

[00:30:56] Liz: Definitely. You're, like you said, square in that sweet spot of being able to report on ESG and sustainability. Wall Street loves that right now. Investing.


[00:31:12] Liz: That's fantastic. The timing's impeccable.

[00:31:18] Aidan: Yes. I hate to take the words from them, but my colleague, Pat Flynn, one of Hazel's co-founders has a great line. I'm paraphrasing, but whenever anybody asks him why did he join the company he basically says, "Well, any sufficiently big problem is an equally big opportunity." Clearly, this is the problem for the future. This is the opportunity to get into.

[00:31:43] Liz: Absolutely. Now that you're growing along those lines too, you're in the business of reducing food waste. There is a purpose to your solution. Are you finding you're attracting people who are drawn to that type of company? Or you're still attracting the scientists and those types of folks? How's it looking from a setup of your people?

[00:32:10] Aidan: I want to chide you a little bit and make sure that you understand that the scientists care too.

[00:32:16] Liz: No, I'm not saying that. I better rephrase it.

[00:32:20] Aidan: No, I'm totally teasing you. It's a really good question. I hate to frame it like this because I know that right now it's a sellers market. Everybody in the world is having a hard time getting top talent, but we've played that game on easy mode because we're fundamentally a passion-driven business. I don't think I have a single employee that didn't sign up at Hazel regardless of what their role is, from the COO all the way down to lab technician.

They didn't sign up with Hazel in some capacity because they wanted to be a part of the company's mission. For us, it's very, very important that we keep our mission very streamlined, very focused on positive change in the world, because as a result we've been able to attract what I would consider to be top-tier talent almost solely on the basis of their passion. Certainly, we're a very good employer and we're very kind to our people, but there's lots of good employers and they're very kind with their people too. For us, I think the big differentiator is just the people really, really want to engage with this vision and they really want to solve the problem this way. It's unbelievably important in every aspect of the company, scientists included.

[00:33:28] Liz: We love our scientists. I know they're very caring people.

[00:33:34] Aidan: You have to remember, I do have a Ph.D. I am part of that world.


[00:33:38] Liz: Exactly. I know my audience now. I should have phrased that differently. I'll give you that [unintelligible 00:33:46]. You mentioned that you're opening a facility in California. What will that look like?

[00:33:58] Aidan: Yes, it can be really cool, actually. We've got manufacturing facilities outside of California. We're still almost entirely US-based on that front. The Fresno facility, it'll be in Fresno, California. Is specifically targeted towards the post-harvest science side of the company and will focus on interfacing directly with gardening. Basically, the customers are right down the street.

So just interfacing directly with customers that are right there in the heart of California, the biggest producers in the United States, some of our best customers. In addition to allowing us to really increase the quality of our scientific output by putting us right smack dab in the middle of the supply chain logistics of the weekend, really interfaced within the study of the specific impacts of the supply chain as it interacts with our technology.

We're also able to open up a little bit more and show the customer more about. That we're going to have a demo room in there. It'll not only showcase application versions of our technology, but we're also going to have a tasting and what we call an organoleptic room. Meaning that customers can come in and eat things that have been treated and see differences in ongoing post-harvest trials. Really actually get a full qualitative and quantitative picture of what the scientific wing of Hazel Technologies can accomplish.

I don't want to tell tales out of school because it hasn't fully been settled yet, but I have a little pension for turning food waste into distilled alcohol, and we're going to be going through a lot of food there. The current thinking is we're going to go ahead and build out a proper distillation set up there as well and have a little bit of the tasting room on that side also.

[00:35:45] Liz: I think that's a must.

[00:35:46] Aidan: Yes. I mean, come on. Once I say that nobody has ever like, "That's a bad idea. You shouldn't do that".


[00:35:52] Liz: You said it. Now it's recorded. You have to make it happen.

[00:35:58] Aidan: I know. I knew you were going to ask me this question. I was like, " Should I talk about distilled yet?" I think it's going to be fun. That's what I feel. I've got enough confidence in the project and we'll get it put together. The Hazel holiday liquor bottle has become a bit of a customer tradition over the last few years. I just emptied the task that I put together like 30 months ago for this year's customer offering. At this point, people have come to expect it. I feel like people would get mad at me if I didn't this [laughs]. 

[00:36:27] Liz: Definitely. I love that you've already been doing that. That's fabulous.

[00:36:31] Aidan: Yes. Very small scale, relatively speaking, but yes. The whole reason that that project emerged was because our post-harvest lab in Chicago goes through a couple of hundred pounds of food a week depending on the experimental frequency. We just don't want to waste that stuff. We tried to give a lot of it away. You can only give so much away. You can't give away damaged or bad fruit, but you can still ferment it.

We said, "All right, I don't want to waste these calories. Let's go ahead and turn it into something fun." The post-harvest facility we'll have in Fresno will be 10x that. It just gives us a bigger opportunity to produce more. We have to do something fun. That's our responsibility. We have to do something fun with it. I think it'll be fun. I think we'll figure it out.

[00:37:14] Liz: That's great. Keep us posted as you open that. I love how it's going to be.

[00:37:18] Aidan: Absolutely. If you find yourself in Fresno, email me, Pat, [unintelligible 00:37:23], or somebody and ask for a tour. We can come by and you can get a tour. You can get some other couple of drinks.

[00:37:29] Liz: [laughs] Sounds good. Twist my arm.


[00:37:35] Liz: Aidan, is there anything else you want to share? I know you're a busy guy, but if I hadn't asked you something that you wanted to share, please let me know.

[00:37:43] Aidan: I think this has been a very good interview. I think one thing that we rarely get to talk about, but I'm also very excited for, is one of the advantages our technology has is one in terms of customer scale as well. If you have to buy a piece of equipment, that's a million dollars or $2 million, you're not going to see a lot of smallholder farmers interacting with that kind of technology. This is a big problem in consolidation.

Not because big businesses are bad businesses, but because monocropping, the evolution of monogenetic health of various crops is becoming a bit of an issue worldwide. You've probably heard this in context, in bananas more recently than anything else. But bananas, because we've now we really only have one commercial genetic cult of our banana worldwide, are basically in danger of extinction from a variety of diseases that are opportunistic for that particular cultivar. We don't have a very robust banana horticulture program to overcome that.

One thing that we're excited about is that because our technology doesn't require that kind of investment, we can serve any farmer anywhere. From the smallest landholders up to these very, very large companies that we often do business with. I think that that, in turn, provides an opportunity for increasing the genetic diversity of our dinner plate.

Meaning that folks who can grow heirloom categories of fruits and vegetables can continue to gain market share and can continue to support their operations with a quality shelf-life technology without having to pay an arm and a leg for it. It doesn't threaten their livelihood. That, in turn, leads to a higher degree of genetic diversity, biodiversity, and available foodstuffs. I'm a big proponent of heirloom everything.

I think that we need to keep that biodiversity alive as much as possible and reduce the tendency towards consolidation of our biological diversity in food. I think that's something we're here to enable. It's a bit of an esoteric subject, but I think it's one that could be incredibly important to the survival of very key fruit items, like the banana. I'm proud to be at the front of that technological innovation.

[00:40:01] Liz: Definitely is critically important. Especially the way that you phrase that. Thank you for sharing that.

[00:40:07] Aidan: Yes, my pleasure. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate the interest. It was a lot of fun talking to you.

[00:40:12] Liz: You too. Please, keep in touch as you build out your facility and keep doing great things. Thanks for all the work you're doing.

[00:40:20] Aidan: Yes, absolutely. Much appreciated. Thanks so much for having me on.

[00:40:24] Liz: Okay. Thanks, Aidan. Have a great day and we'll talk to you soon. Thank you for listening. It would mean the world if you would take a moment to rate or review this podcast. If you share it with us on one of our social networks, we are giving out some fun, Nothing Wasted Podcast swag. Just tag us and see what you get. Thanks so much.


TAGS: Food Waste
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