Growing up on a ranch off the coast of Connecticut, Luc Dang lived with his mother and the two raised several dozen chickens, goats, rescued wild mustangs, geese and ponies. They would sell eggs to nearby restaurants and as a teenager Dang worked in some of those restaurants.
“I looked at the waste going from the farm to the forks, and identified that nearly half of that waste comes from the consumer-facing food business, and us as consumers,” Dang said. “We also waste a lot of food with eyes bigger than stomach syndrome, we order too much so there’s a lot of trash in there too.”
So, right after college, he got the idea to create Phood, a food service platform that uses Artificial Intelligence via computer vision to help food businesses of all sizes reduce their food waste.
The company recently announced that it has raised $ 2 million in seeds, led by Chicago-based New Stack Ventures and New York-based Story Ventures funds.
The company’s flagship device, called PhoodX, consists of a tablet, camera and scale and captures everything that is prepared and produced in the kitchen and is composted or thrown away. Additionally, it breaks them down using data analytics and machine learning to understand what they buy rather than produce rather than serve and what they throw away.
Phood then gives users that info back, telling them what their most wasted items are, so they can make changes to what they buy and produce to not only save money but also reduce that waste.
Based on data from the FDA, in the United States, food waste is estimated to be between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply. EPA estimate that 63.1 million tonnes of food waste were generated in the commercial, institutional and residential sectors in 2018.
“The waste of food is just something that really doesn’t make sense to me,” Luc Dang, who made up last year 30 Under 30 List of Social Entrepreneurs, said. “It’s strange that we can have such high waste when we have people who are completely unable to feed themselves or are not food safe in our own country.”
Phood currently focuses on grocery stores, with the main client being the Whole Food Market. It operates a SaaS-based model, in which it works with wholesalers to sell them monthly subscriptions (subscriptions depend on the current system they are using, on the amount or volume of food they buy). The company has seen 150% revenue growth since the start of 2020.
The company was founded in 2019, and is participating in TechStars in Twin Cities Minnesota this year.
Nate Pierotti, deal leader at New Stack Ventures (which is leading the seed round), said that in the food waste industry it is rare to find solutions that both provide a significant ROI at the core, but also have a large impact on food waste.
“I think one of the reasons why certain industries resist change, is because it has a negative impact on their bottom line,” said Pierotti. “And what Phood provides is a solution that solves both problems: it provides ROI and also prevents food waste.”
According to Pierotti, it will be difficult to find more important problems to solve.
“Phood has a very significant impact on greenhouse gases and global warming, as well as a huge impact on business.”