How one Atlanta startup solved the biggest problem in food waste recovery
Jasmine Crowe discusses Goodr’s growth at the AgLanta Conference in Atlanta.
Photo: Taylor Zorzi
For any food waste recovery business, whether for profit or non-profit, the biggest expense is logistics. Jasmine Crowe, founder of Atlanta-based startup Goodr knew that from the start.
“Originally I thought we were going to be like Uber Eats in reverse… Then I sat back and said that’s not really sustainable,” said Crowe at the AgLanta conference in Atlanta last month.
Goodr is a two-year-old startup that provides restaurants, airports, convention centers and other food service operations with a blockchain-based digital platform to track surplus food and a food waste recovery service. Essentially, Goodr offers insights to help food businesses reduce waste, and then picks up and donates what waste they don’t mitigate.
Several similar platforms have sprung up in the last decade or so as the $270 billion problem of food waste enters the public consciousness and businesses see value in the work of mitigating waste and the halo effect that can follow.
Goodr’s rallying cry to its business clients is “wasted food is wasted money.” But beyond saving money, if food service operations are going to get serious about food waste, the logistics need to come with the offer.
With a “white glove” logistics offering, recruiting big ticket clients like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Georgia World Convention Center weren’t the hard part. Building a user-friendly software platform also wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was running the operations behind all of the pickups and deliveries.
And it wasn’t just hiring carriers to move the food, Crowe needed delivery capacity she could flex up and down with delivery volume so that she wasn’t paying for any unused capacity.
Crowd-sourced logistics was the answer
“What we started to do is partner with companies that are already out on the road,” she said. In December 2018, Goodr began partnering with these outside logistics providers and by April, the company was active in half a dozen cities across the country after two years of Georgia-only operations.
Crowd-sourced logistics services like Goodr partners Roadie and Truxx are a growing part of the gig economy. They function similar to Uber with a gig worker agreeing to pick up and deliver for a set rate. But for the startups focused on ferrying goods rather than people, vehicles and distances vary.
Roadie’s model focuses on targeting drivers who are already near a pickup and likely heading in the right direction for the delivery. And Truxx is focused on larger vehicles for larger loads.
Crowe said that to these logistics providers, Goodr isn’t a charity case — it’s the same as any other customer.
“To them, we’re just another customer, but to their employees, we’re the good customer. When it’s a Goodr pickup, they’re really excited to say yes and give that delivery because they’re helping to end hunger,” she said.
And Goodr isn’t the only business-to business application for crowdsourced logistics. Roadie CEO Marc Gorlin told Supply Chain Dive that his drivers move some Petco products from warehouse to warehouse in order to better fulfill e-commerce orders and the concept is even growing with the largest retailers since no business wants to pay for extra delivery capacity it doesn’t need.
A year ago, Crowe didn’t know how Goodr would expand beyond Atlanta. Truck leases, hiring drivers and planning routes on top of navigating local laws regarding food recovery was a heavy lift in unfamiliar territory. But with the cooperation of her crowd-sourced logistics delivery partners, Goodr is working Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, Chicagoand Raleigh, North Carolina to name a few.
“It’s a huge breakthrough for the business. There are still customers where we’re very ‘white glove’ like with airports, convention centers — for things of that nature we still are going to have to handle logistics in-house because they require background checks and are really high value customers,” Crowe said. But everything else delivered by a third party.
Crowdsourcing works where demand for deliveries and drivers to complete them are plentiful, which is why the concept is growing in and around densely populated urban areas. Goodr therefore does not have a profitable way to meet rural food need.
For this problem, Crowe is developing a partnership with a slightly larger hometown Atlanta business: UPS.
“We’re looking at entering the grocery market but doing it in a way where we get the food from grocers. We can put together real boxes of food and actually get that shipped next-day, overnight so we can get to places like [Macon, Georgia] where we’re getting tons of requests. We have so much need, we just don’t have the supply,” said Crowe from the AgLanta stage.
Third-party logistics providers like UPS and even the United Postal Service are some of the only last-mile delivery players with equal service offered to both urban and rural areas. Shipping unprepared food overnight could be the missing link in reaching every and any hungry community.
As Goodr expands to new markets, Crowe described that success also has more to do with local regulations than will to waste. Cities like Portland, Oregon with mature organics recycling laws have been quick to see the value in Goodr’s offer, for example. Investors have been slower. Goodr raised a $1.25 million pre-seed round in August and Crowe said it was not an easy sell.
“We’re way ahead of the curve now. People aren’t always looking for ways to manage food waste,” she said. Hacking the logistics end of the equation could make next round a different experience.
Emma Cosgrove | May 13, 2019, 08:00am
Originally published on Forbes