The awards, which total over $130,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, will be used to finance the company’s first 10,000 square foot greenhouse located on the roof of a ShopRite Supermarket, owned and operated by the Brown family, in the Parkside section of West Philadelphia. The company also seeks to expand its operations to other grocery stores and high-end farm-to-table restaurants interested in the company’s environmental and social mission.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have done so well in these competitions,” said FOCUS Food co-founder and CEO Julia Kurnik. “This will allow us to really jump-start our production immediately and provide Philadelphia residents with the freshest, most sustainable fish, fruits, and vegetables anywhere.”
The company won the Social Enterprise Track in the Harvard Business School’s New Ventures Competition for its plan to use aquaponics technology to build a series of urban farms across the region. Aquaponics combines both hydroponics and aquaculture to create a completely sustainable, closed-loop system for producing naturally organic produce and fish. Waste generated from fish is used to feed the system’s plants which in turn clean the water and return it to the fish.
This method of growing not only produces food faster than traditional farming, it uses just five percent of the water while eradicating virtually all negative environmental impacts such as pesticide use, soil erosion, and carbon emissions. By locating on grocery store rooftops, FOCUS Foods also eliminates transportation costs and emissions, resulting in fresher, healthier food to consumers. The USDA estimates that produce can lose 77 percent of its Vitamin C in just a single week after harvesting and food today travels an average of 4,200 miles.
Following its victory in the Harvard New Ventures Competition, FOCUS Foods then won the top prize at Carnegie Mellon’s Summit New Ventures Competition featuring pitches from both traditional businesses and social enterprises. This was then followed by another win in the Harvard-wide Dean’s Food Challenge for innovation in the commercial food market. The company has also received funding from the Wharton Innovation Fund and was one of ten finalists in the international Verizon Powerful Answers Competition with a $1 million Grand Prize.
FOCUS Foods recently completed testing of its first prototype and will be breaking ground on its first large-scale system later this summer on the ShopRite of Parkside, operated by the Brown family. To learn more about FOCUS Foods, please visit our website at focusfoodsinc.com.