Sustainable America Blog

Local Food Lab

We’ve touched on the topic of “Growing a New Crop of Farmers” and the encouraging trend of college graduates choosing farming as a career. Now there’s a Silicon Valley incubator called the Local Food Lab that is geared to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in local food systems.

The Local Food Lab’s stated mission:

“Growing good food and farm startups: Local Food Lab stimulates and accelerates successful innovation and entrepreneurship in local food systems. By providing best-in-class entrepreneurial education and a potent network of diverse professional resources, Local Food Lab supports entrepreneurs in transforming their ideas into thriving, sustainable ventures.”

Their first workshop took place over six weeks this last summer. For $2500, workshop participants are taught how to create a comprehensive business & marketing plan, and how to create financial forecasts. They also have access to the Local Food Lab’s commercial kitchen, garden and collaborative spaces, as well as a variety of mentors, fellow entrepreneurs and investors.

At the end of the six weeks, each participant presents their business plan to a panel of industry experts and investors for feedback and, fingers crossed, the seed funding to make their dream a reality.

Founders of the Local Food Lab Krysia Zajonc and Mateo Aguilar came from the Columbia Business School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center which is itself a business incubator of sorts.

Zajonc told Co.Exist that she went to business school with the focused goal of understanding and then solving the problems that exist in current food systems.

“I saw there was a problem getting food from farm to table and linking producers to buyers but it seemed like those problems would be solved with a few really good apps and a logistics makeover of distributors. The bottleneck in my mind was the supply piece. There’s not enough food that people are demanding, and that’s why prices are so high.”

If you’ve got a great idea for a food startup and are in the Silicon Valley area, the next Food & Farm startup demo event is on November 14.

Sustainable America supports the local food movement. Locally grown food reduces oil usage for both production and transportation and helps to minimize food miles – the distance that food has to travel from farm to plate. With 7 billion+ people on the planet and counting, we will need to rethink and reinvent our agricultural systems if we wish to create a more resilient, more sustainable America.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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