Hazel Technologies has raised a $3.26 million Series A round led by food and agtech VC S2G ventures. The company develops small packets to insert into fresh produce packaging that release an anti-fungal shelf-life extending vapor. Hazel claims that its technology can extend the shelf life of fresh produce by 300%.
“2017 was a big pilot year for the company, completing more than 20 pilots from March to December,” founder and CEO Aidan Mouat told AgFunderNews. These pilots included Dresick Farms International (DFI), the 10th largest grower by acreage in California, and Agritrade Farms International, one of the largest growers of specialty vegetables in Latin America.
“We [DFI] saw up to a 49% increase in marketable product after 30 days, a potential savings of as much as $10,000 per load. We haven’t seen something that works this well in our many years in the melon industry,” said DFI’s Ross Van Vlack, vice president of sales and marketing.
Also participating in the round were follow-on investor Rhapsody Venture Partners, as well as Serra Ventures, Valley Oak Investments, and Climate Impact Capital. This round comes almost exactly one year after the Chicago-based startup raised an $800,000 seed round.
Since its seed round last year, Hazel has developed two new products, one for melons (developed with DFI) and one for okra, on top of their existing berry product and a generalist fruit product that has been validated for various specialty crop from avocados to tomatoes. The team is also currently working with Cornell University to validate the technology for pears.
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Hazel chooses its next fresh produce target based on client interest, and though the effect and the core of the technology remain the same from crop to crop, Mouat said that the method of integrating Hazel’s technology into different crop supply chains is the trick of successfully developing a new product, along with minor formulation changes.
This year the company is working to move toward a lower-touch selling process now that the company’s various products are tested and validated.
“We’d like to make this as off-the-shelf as possible. However, I’m not familiar with any post-harvest company that doesn’t offer technical support and we pride ourselves on the technical support we provide,” said Mouat.
Hazel has also received a total of $700,000 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) SBIR program to further develop and commercialize their technologies.
“Hazel’s technology has the potential to make a real impact on a massive scale. Food waste creates an incredible strain on our resources and Hazel’s drop-in solution is already being used to reduce this strain by optimizing freshness across the supply chain from harvest to the consumer. We are excited about the partnership with Hazel and look forward to working with the Hazel team to reduce food waste and enhance the efficiency of the produce supply chain,” said Matthew Walker, principal at S2G.
Hazel Technologies officially launched in March 2015 but the five founders met at an accelerator program at Northwestern University a year earlier. The technology was the joint creation of Mouat and Dr. Adam Preslar. With this new funding. Hazel will double the size of its team concentrating on production, operations, and sales after recently doubling its production space and building a 8,000 sq. ft. postharvest lab, which will allow the company to quadruple production capacity and reduce customer wait time.
Wide sales will begin after the company receives EPA approval, required because Hazel’s active ingredients are considered biopesticides, which Hazel expects to come through in June. The next target market for the company will be the EU.