Colorado Springs startup FoodMaven is getting a boost – financially and otherwise – from a big name in the food industry.
Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, has joined the board of directors of FoodMaven, a business based on “oversupplied” food. Robb is also investing in the company; Patrick Bultema, FoodMaven CEO and co-founder, declined to detail the size of that investment but called it “significant” and “sizeable.”
Robb’s connections and credibility in the industry, meanwhile, are extremely valuable to FoodMaven, Bultema said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of validation to what we are doing to have someone of his stature joining. He has great insights that he brings to us in terms of the food system.”
Robb stepped down as co-CEO of Whole Foods at the end of last year in a management shift that left co-founder John Mackey as sole chief executive. Once news of the change broke, Robb was presented with a wealth of opportunities, Bultema said. “We were humbled and honored that we were the first thing he said yes to.”
Through an online marketplace, FoodMaven buys surplus food from grocery stores and distributors and sells it to restaurants, institutional kitchens and commercial food preparation businesses. (FoodMaven does not normally reveal its suppliers, but Whole Foods was disclosed as one in a Wall Street Journal article; that relationship is separate from FoodMaven’s ties with Robb, Bultema said.) For the suppliers, the marketplace represents revenue rescue for food that otherwise would have been lost,” Bultema said. The buyers, meanwhile, get quality food at a significant discount from wholesale, he said. Food that doesn’t rapidly sell in the marketplace is donated to charity.
FoodMaven is an agriculture-tech startup, founded in August 2015 by Dan Lewis, president/chief innovator, and Patrick Bultema, CEO/chairman. Its stated goal: keep food out of landfills. Food companies at every point between the dirt and the dinner table sign contracts with FoodMaven. When extra food shows up at their loading docks — most often produce, meat and dairy, which can’t sit in a warehouse for an indefinite amount of time — FoodMaven takes it off their hands, stores it and sells it to commercial and institutional kitchens across Colorado Springs and Denver. In the Springs alone, FoodMaven sells to 120 restaurants, plus school districts, senior living centers, caterers and even the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Aruba, like many countries, is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for energy. Currently, nearly 85% of the energy is generated by heavy fuel oil but that is going to change. Aruba pledged to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2020, particularly variable wind and solar.
This 19 mile long island launched it’s Green Gateway Initiative in 2011 at the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. With the support of Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit, Aruba created its plan of action beginning with wind farm development, a waste-to-energy plant, and a Airport Solar Park. They are taking the Smart Growth Pathway that addresses many different areas of an expanding economy, such as; eco-tourism, incentives for household retrofitting and commercial energy efficiency, the sustainable agriculture practice known as controlled environment agriculture, urban planning that supports this transition, and investments in innovation. This plan focuses on three components of growth: Energy, Transportation, and the Built Environment with a four-phased approach. As more renewable energy sources are configured into their system, their fossil fuel dependence will decrease.
In order to achieve 100% renewable electricity, Aruba will have to be at the forefront of storage capacity and demand response innovation. Justin Locke, director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, says it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power. “Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources.” Aruba has excellent wind and solar resources. Wind and sun sources are consistently strong, although this kind of energy is “intermittent” which require other sources of energy to be available on standby to make up for fluctuations and spikes in demand. An issue they face is land. The ability to be fossil-free will depend on Aruba’s available land, 180 sq kilometers, and the inevitable investment in more expensive, offshore sources. Another issue is their electricity usage per capita. While renewable energy production strategies make the supply more sustainable, reducing the demand for energy is equally important.
Aruba’s move towards renewable energy can create a significant number of jobs, whether in the production of energy itself, in the retrofitting of the existing building infrastructure to accommodate renewable energy systems and the installation of energy efficiency and conservation measures and systems, and the booming eco-tourism. The job-generating capacity of renewable energy is well documented by several sources, including in a recent working paper by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies”.
As the largest source of economic activity in Aruba, the tourism industry is a particularly important focus for energy efficiency efforts. Almost three-quarters of Aruba’s gross national product is earned through tourism or tourism-related activities, drawing in almost 900,000 visitors to the island annually (Aruba Tourism Authority 2012). As the centerpiece of Aruba’s economy, integrating sustainability efforts across the tourism industry will be vital to the country’s aim of transitioning off fossil fuels. Furthermore, by demonstrating its far-reaching commitment to sustainability, the tourism industry in Aruba can differentiate itself from its island neighbors while insulating the island’s economy from price fluctuations in the cost of imported fuels.
The Government of Aruba aims to balance quality of life and environmentally friendly economic growth through what they call a sustainable and shared prosperity. To achieve these goals, Aruba promotes economic growth, social equity, and environmental awareness through various educational programs and community projects. Aruba has designed an initiative to develop the island as a Green Gateway between Europe and the Americas in the areas of green technology, business support services, and creative industries, which is intended to bring greater economic diversification, stability, growth, and increased sustainability to Aruba.
Thanks to this strong platform and leadership, Aruba has shown strong early progress on the path to true sustainability. Leading our countries in how a low-carbon transformation does not need to hinder the pursuit of an improved quality of life and a healthier economy, but rather that it can power sustainable economic development and prosperity.
Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.
The guys at Google and Facebook, for example, are stimulating the need for wind and solar energy that they are using to feed their electricity-starved data centers. The developers of those energy projects, in return, are getting solid customers that are buying their output at a fixed price over a certain period of years.
But individual commercial and industrial customers aren’t generating the type of demand that can propel big energy projects into the market. Now, though, that may change. The same so-called power purchase agreements that are used to attract the likes of Microsoft, Intel and SAP can also be parceled out to smaller businesses, albeit in much smaller blocks of energy and for much shorter time frames.
“We connect the corporate community to power purchase agreements,” says Paul Schuster managing director for Altenex, a unit of Edison Energy, in an interview. “We have noticed those larger-to-mid-sized energy users need to achieve cost efficiencies, which can be done by buying smaller blocks of renewable electricity.”
A traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years. But the contract now offered to the smaller players might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.
So how does all this work? A wind developer can’t go forward until it knows that it can sell its output into the market at a fair price. Because there are tax breaks for both building the project and buying the output, developers have proved able to sell that product into wholesale markets.
Let’s say it is an insurance company or a bank that buys the bulk of the wholesale power before it would be resold into retail markets: They often line up the major corporate outlets or Internet giants and contract with them to sell the energy at fixed prices over a set number of years. What Altenex is doing is going to that insurer or banker — in this example — and offering to market smaller blocks of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses.
“The return on equity should be infinite,” says Schuster. “Customers, in fact, are not putting down any upfront capital. Hopefully, they are buying renewable energy at the same cost or lower cost than they are paying for fossil energy.”
Is the corporate green market on fertile ground? PriceWaterhouseCoopers says that it has grown over the last 24 months and that it will continue to expand. Seventy-two percent of the companies it surveyed said that they are pursuing renewables, noting that they want to be more sustainable and to use green energy to hedge against volatile energy prices.
Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, adds the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it notes, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours.
The larger companies are the main drivers with the likes of General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors and Walmart setting a goal to run their entire operations using green energy. That includes a number of different options — everything from investing directly into deals to buying their electricity through power purchase agreements.
Austin-based TreeHouse, a home improvement retailer focused on eco-friendly construction materials, has selected Dallas as its first stop outside its hip hometown. Tuesday, it will announce plans to open a store in early 2017 in a new shopping center in North Dallas.
TreeHouse CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard believes he can sell the world on eco-friendly homes in the same way that Tesla is broadening the customer base for electric cars. As the first retailer that Tesla has authorized to sell the Powerwall, its battery for the house, TreeHouse is already a powerhouse of sustainable good. They are also one of the top-selling retailers of Nest smart-home products, Ballard said.
“We resist being a niche company,” Ballard said. “We’re not just for customers with dreadlocks and card-carrying members of environmental groups. We’re going to prove with the Dallas store that we’re not a store for special people, we’re a store for everyone.”
Single-store sales have increased 35 percent every year, he said, without disclosing annual sales. Inc. Magazine said last fall that the store was on track to do $10 million in 2015.