In what some describe as the most creative business move of 2014, the tech company Food Cowboy has figured out a way to help truck drivers re-route unwanted fresh produce to charities instead of sending it to landfills.
“Food is wasted because it is perishable and expensive to move, so when it can’t be sold it usually ends up in dumpsters,” according to Food Cowboy’s co-founder and long-haul truck driver Richard Gordon, who has been transporting fresh produce for 25 years.
“Getting that food to the hungry requires real-time information about where it is, what it is, and where it needs to go. Our app gives truckers that information, just like taxi companies use apps to connect drivers with passengers,” said Gordon.
Besides helping the environment and those in need, Food Cowboy is also good business for everyone involved. The company collects ten cents for every pound of food it re-routes from wholesalers to charities (like soup kitchens and food banks). According to them, that’s less than half of what most of those charities pay in transportation fees for donations.
“Between the savings to food banks and the savings to donors in taxes, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. Plus, hungry people get fresh produce instead of canned goods,” said Gordon.
For some truckers, it would have been to be a whole lot easier to find a dumpster than a food bank for rejected shipments, especially in the middle of the night hundreds miles from home. But Food Cowboy is closing the gap and making it easy find charities located along their current route.
The app searches by location, operating hours, storage capacity, and even loading dock type. It also streamlines charitable donation paperwork so donors can get the maximum tax benefit.
An example scenario on the website states, “The warehouse manager just told you not to take the tomatoes off the truck -too ripe. So you post them on FoodCowboy.com, saying you’re heading for Abilene tomorrow at 7am. When you wake up, you’ve got messages from three food pantries along the way offering to take the tomatoes off your hands.”
Food Cowboy is setting trends with its revolutionarily new application that, according to their website, is re-routing enough food to feed 50 million elementary students every day. Earlier in the year, the USDA’s Office of Sustainability asked the company to help identify other entrepreneurs that are developing new ways to fight hunger and waste.
Just this month, Fast Company Magazine named Food Cowboy one of 2014’s 1000 Most Creative Businesses and is the only seed-stage tech startup to be included in the list.
Food Cowboy was founded in 2012 by Gordon and his brother Richard, a lawyer and former caterer, and Barbara Cohen, Ph.D., the author of USDA’s Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit. They were brought together earlier in the year by ex-Googler Ikezi Kamanu.