Led by NC State alumni Shraddha Rathod and Matthew Simpson, Freshspire is an up-and-coming startup dedicated to connecting wholesale food buyers and suppliers, giving struggling farmers a leg up during the pandemic. Rathod is the founder and CEO of the company, with Simpson being the chief technical officer, joined by vice president of product Ziwa Mukungu.
The startup provides a number of helpful services to farmers, including order and vendor management, online communication tools and detailed data analytics reports for wholesale food buyers and suppliers to connect and get access to otherwise unknown markets.
Originally founded by five students all hailing from different universities, the group wanted to focus on making a difference, utilizing engineering skills in lesser-known industries lacking technology.
“As we researched more into the food space, we definitely found areas where technology could make a difference,” Rathod said. “I think the local food, small-to-midsize farmer space really attracted us because we're a team of engineers, and we realized that this was a space that didn't have the great technology that we see in other industries when it comes to making software for communicating with each other or apps..”
According to Rathod, the local food movement is about more than sourcing from local farmers. She stated that achieving self-sustainability is the ultimate goal, alongside addressing pressing issues such as food insecurity and food waste, heightened by the ongoing pandemic.
“A lot of farmers lost their restaurant contact contracts during the pandemic because restaurants shut down,” Rathod said. “Some farmers were only selling to restaurants, so that was like the end of their business for some time. What we really saw was the importance of diversifying your markets, not just selling to restaurants, but also grocery stores, distributors or straight to the consumer.”
For farmers, these changes have prompted innovation in otherwise unchanged sales processes by selling to more diverse customers and creating relations with new buyers in different sectors.
Freshspire is currently working on implementing these changes through several new features on its app, using direct user feedback. Examples include an analytics dashboard, useful for marketing and sales transparency, in addition to better matching tools for buyers and sellers, linking potential buyer needs and supplier availability.
The company is currently collaborating with local organizations to collect and distribute food to struggling communities, working with NC State, the Wake County government and many others.
“We've also worked with grocery store chains like Lowes Foods and Weaver Street Market and a multitude of small to midsize farmers around the Carolinas,” Rathod said. “We started partnering with the Black Farmer's Market to get more farmers of color and minority farmers on our application and just to have more market access.”
Expansion is one of the startup’s many goals, with future collaborations already underway.
“We’d love to collaborate with more counties and government associations across the U.S.,” Rathod said. “I think we have the potential for a large impact, especially when it comes to transparency.”
Rathod explained that oftentimes food security programs don’t get funded due to a lack of transparency. Many of Freshspire’s services center around transparency, including an extensive analytics dashboard dedicated to presenting data to both buyers and sellers, a tool that has the potential to revolutionize food security programs.
Besides further expansion across the U.S., Freshspire is also looking to collaborate with other farming and agricultural organizations, in the hopes of broadening its consumer base.
Rathod’s passion for using technology for good is clear, with Freshspire’s impact in improving the food system already apparent. For more information on Freshspire, visit their website.