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Town Haul Podcast / Episode 6

Town Haul Podcast


Welcome to the Town Haul Podcast


Rubicon’s first and only podcast where we share advice for techies, earth lovers and for penny pinchers!


Lettuce Talk About Food Waste!

Introduction to the Town Haul Rubicon Podcast

Interviewer: [00:00] Hey guys my name is Amy Koonin and I am your host for the Town Haul. Rubicon’s first and only podcast where we share advice for techies, for earth lovers and for penny pinchers. As much as I love the sound of my own voice this broadcast is gonna rely heavily on guests who are subject matter experts on everything. Ranging from how to get your small business up and running, interviews with some of the brains behind your favorite apps and even how to remove garbage from outer space. You never know who’s gonna pop up and join me next in studio. so make sure to subscribe to the Town Haul on iTunes to get our episodes downloaded directly and if your boss is making you work through lunch, your commute it’s just too short and you miss something awesome; don’t worry we’ve got your back. You can check out our blog for recaps, reviews in all things Town Hall.

Sarah Sanders Introduction & Background

Amy: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of the Town Haul. I am super excited today to be joined in studio by Sarah Sanders, the CEO and co-founder of bon harvest. Thank you for being here Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you for having me.

Amy: And before we get into a long list of questions that I have for you, a lot of them having to do with food waste I wanted to take a minute to address the elephant in the room. I am a Kansas Jayhawk.

Sarah: Oh no.

Amy: And you are a Kentucky Wildcat and it is what March Madness. Tonight though you guys play my most gut-wrenching rival k-state and it’s pretty cool that the only day in my entire life that I’ve ever rooted for Kentucky, I have a Wildcat on the podcast with me.

Sarah: Because no one could see me I did wear a Kentucky hat in here not knowing she was a Kansas [01:47 inaudible].

Amy: Yes she did.

Sarah: [01:49 inaudible]

Amy: Nope you still got a little bit of time.

Sarah: [01:53 inaudible] for you.

Amy: God I hope so. So let’s get down to business. Sarah is a food waste Wiz. but I really wanted to start with you know let’s back it up a little bit and find out about what got you there, in addition to being a Kentucky alum Sarah is also a Rubicon alum. So let’s talk a little bit about your background.

Sarah: Yeah absolutely, so ironically on the topic of Kentucky basketball the first time that I heard about Rubicon was on an airplane. I was skipping class during grad school to watch Kentucky play Baylor in Dallas and by happens chance an ice storm blew through. 34 hours later I finally got on a flight and a man next to me said I like your UK vest. did you go to Kentucky and I said yes I did and turns out he was not only on the board of UK’s business school, but happened to be the CEO of Rubicon and I kept in touch with him and ended up becoming his assistant for a year and a half. Worked at Rubicon for well over two years and yeah that is my connection. All thanks to Kentucky.

Amy: So starting you know you worked so closely with Nate. But what sparked your passion for sustainability? How did you become interested in food waste specifically?

Sarah: Sure so I actually spent the early part of my career around the restaurant space. My father is a restaurant entrepreneur. Started a company based in Cincinnati early on. He worked out of Lexington Kentucky. His father and his stepfather were restaurant entrepreneurs as part of their career as well. So I was always around food particularly the restaurant scene and was well aware about the waste that happens in that industry. Not only at the end of life after the food is prepared but early on in the supply chain even before it gets to the restaurant. I was keen on learning more, I knew it was an issue. But when I was in grad school there was a marketing strategy class in particular that really sparked my interest not only in sustainability but technology as well and I saw how valuable that was becoming to business. and you know any industry those two channels people were talking about more and more and I couldn’t really get it out of my head and when I met Nate, you know I knew I wanted to get away from the restaurant industry a little bit. Didn’t really know where to start when it came to technology and sustainability. I didn’t have you know a lot of background in that space. So yeah like I said I sent my follow-up email several months later and it said you know I wanted to have a conversation, learn more I love what you’ve built. I think it’s incredible. Told me you know they were about to raise 30 million dollars and me never heard of anything like that coming from Cincinnati that was a big number and loved Atlanta and so it seemed like a natural career progression for me to be able to enter the tech and sustainability space.

Amy: And before you went to Bon Harvest, in between Rubicon and Bon Harvest, you were actually at Toast. Which kind of melds the two worlds of restaurant tech as well.

Sarah: Yes so after I left Rubicon I wanted to move to New York. Saw an opening with a company that I had had my eye on for a while. A new restaurant technology was lagging behind significantly and there was this company, there was backed by Google called Toast. Based on Boston started by MIT grads. Brilliant brilliant people that had a product that they had based on you know that they became great not only based on the level of acceleration that they’ve been able to innovate in the space. But also I mean it’s unbelievable the company that they built, the growth… they were just named the third fastest growing company in the country just to put on the context. I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to be around restaurants. But I wanted to stay around technology and this was the perfect Avenue for me to be able to do that. Not to mention I wanted to get the New York and the Manhattan restaurant scene is iconic. You know it’s a little crème de la crème.

Amy: What’s your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

Sarah: Okay so I have a favorite place that I like to go for drinks and then I have a favorite place I like to go for food. They’re both in SoHo actually. One is for ambiance and drinks is Nomo SoHo. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel. They do an incredible job and highly recommend that and then the Mercer Hotel. There’s a restaurant really really neat trendy place and I think they nail it on food. Every time and I’ve been I recommend people to go there all the time. It’s hard for me to pick but I have been asked a few times so I’ve got that answer down.

Amy: I mean it’s hard when you live in New York and you can get any type of food 24 hours a day.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Bon Harvest

Amy: Speaking of food now you’re at Bon Harvest. why don’t you talk a little bit about exactly what Bon Harvest is and kind of educate everybody about why something like that is important and how it works?

Sarah: Sure shortly after my time at Toast, actually while it was still at Toast someone approached me; his name’s Timor and he had co-founded this company called “On Harvest” based on the principle of mitigating food waste in a very unique way. So what we’ve done is built a B2B marketplace for sourcing local food. The difference is we source everything from premium products, the best looking things, best tasting things that come off the farm to also what you’d identify as ugly produce and perfect produce. That has tiny blemishes, tiny bruises still perfectly edible. But we sell that a reduced cost. So you can find everything across that [07:16 inaudible]

Amy: Who doesn’t want ugly produce?

Ugly Produce & Food Waste Statistics

Sarah: A lot of people don’t. But particularly you find that and I’m not gonna play the blame game. But supermarkets and you know when we walk in we look we’ll sit there look at an apple and pick the best one. We’ve been conditioned to do that. when in the restaurant space right you use the best ingredients based on flavor and typically you know you’re preparing these foods whether it be in a soup or you talk about a juicer that’s blending these items, you want the best taste. If it has tiny blemishes on it…

Amy: Right it certainly does sound to be the best looking.

Sarah: Right and so 40% of food that’s produced in this country ends up wasted and a lot of it have to do with aesthetics and so we’re finding a home for all of this produce, for this platform particularly in the restaurant space right now. We will expand out of that space eventually. But chefs you know love to be creative, love to work with the best ingredients and this gives them an opportunity to work with food at reduced costs and a place where they typically don’t find margin. You know they’re working with big companies you know on big contracts and the price isn’t expected to fluctuate or do anything but go up over time. Really so we’ve given them an opportunity to work with a different type of food and prepare it and make incredible dishes.

Amy: So how does the platform work?

Sarah: It’s very simple. You go to our home page, you sign up either as a buyer or seller. The seller is obviously being the local farms. Whether they’re traditional farms you know based out in Long Island, a little bit outside of the city, upstate even in New Jersey. We’re launching in New York right now. But certainly we will expand outside of the New York area. We’re also working recently partnered with several urban farms. You know whether those be hydroponic farms, there’s a several varieties of those. But there’s a huge urban farming boom in New York in particular, other cities like Chicago. there’s actually an incredible conference coming to Atlanta next week called AG Lana and we’re about to move into the first AG tech co-working space and the anchor tenant in there is Aggrotech [09:24 inaudible] their consultancy do work all over the world. But a lot of it right here in New York and there’s so much going on in the urban AG space. So something that I think is incredible, why this is becoming popular. If you look at urban farms typically they’re using 95% less water. The yield is about a hundred x with leafy greens. You’re often not using any pesticides at all and you can even pick those, pick the crops in the morning and put them on a plate in a restaurant that night.

Amy: That’s a real farm-to-table.

Where Does My Food Come From?

Sarah: And the term for that is hyper local and that’s becoming more and more important. People care a lot more now about where their food is coming from. You know like I said the local food movement is increasing very very quickly. Not only in New York but all across the United States and the population is also rapidly rapidly rising. By 2050 there’s going to be 2 billion more people to feed. How do we do that when people are moving closer and closer into cities? You have problems like traffic and you know you can do that. We also mitigate seasonality too. You can grow these crops year-round. It doesn’t make a difference what the weather is outside you’re growing indoors. Whether a container or big warehouse.

Amy: So that’s one way that you think that urban agriculture will impact our food system. How else do you think that’ll play a large role in the development?

Sarah: Yeah I mean feeding more people I think it mitigates waste in the supply chain as well. there are you know different statistics for different types of [10:52 inaudible] for example certain types of lettuce travel 1,800 miles on average before you consume them. That’s absurd.

Amy: Yeah that’s nuts.

Sarah: That’s absurd and you know we’re really localizing our foods some. Make it really really easy for people to build a profile, buy, sell. We coordinate the logistics for you. So that way farmers spend more time forming, doing what they do best and not having to worry about how do I get my crops into the city and you know deal with all this traffic. That’s our job and we make it as easy as possible. But you know to circle back with why is it going to be important? You know we have more and more people to feed and this is a more efficient way to do it. So we can’t ignore that you know this is an opportunity to mitigate waste through harvests and same-day consumption, that’s really powerful.

Amy: I think you know you and I are I think we’re around the same age right?

Sarah: Yeah.

Amy: So we’re both pretty young. My mom calls me a millennial. So I guess we are Millennials.

Sarah: Yeah the title [11:47 inaudible]

Amy: I hate it. Yeah I hate it. So we’re just a couple Millennials talking about farming and like you were saying people care about where their food is coming from and that’s a big trend. You know and I certainly think that Millennials seem to care a lot more about that kind of stuff. do you think that that’s gonna die out or do you think that urban agriculture, an AG tech and all this exciting stuff will eventually just replace traditional farming?

Sarah: No I don’t think it’ll die out at all. I think it’s gonna become the new norm and it won’t feel like a hot topic of conversation over time once we correct you know the problems that we [12:21 inaudible] food distribution. Do I think that one will replace the other? No definitely not in our lifetime. I think they’ll coexist and here’s why. There’s only certain varieties of foods that we know how to grow really really well that make financial sense right now. Because more and more people are getting into the space energy costs are dropping and makes it more affordable. I read a report recently that it takes on average about seven years for an urban farm to become profitable. That’s pretty tricky. You know that’s a long ROI. But something that Bon Harvest is doing is you know helping farmers be able to sell products that they traditionally haven’t been able to sell right. So these ugly grains they either get wasted left on the farm not even picked up because they haven’t been able to sell them. if we can help somebody like urban farms, like AeroFarms or any of the big-name be able to move that product, that’s gonna speed up their timeline quite a bit and this is going to accelerate. You know urban farms being able to reinvest money into different varieties outside of leafy greens, outside of tomatoes. I actually have a few went through the square roots accelerator, the first cohort and that was started by Kimball Musk, Brother of Elon Musk.

Amy: I love Elon Musk by the way.

Sarah: Yeah I love both of them and they’re brilliant in their own ways and you know he’s pushing the campaign of know your farmer and you know real food, local food is real food and I think it’s wonderful. so he has you know people our age growing out of shipping containers, you know teaching them how to do it and I have a friend named Johnny who has launched a company called Street Leafs and he’s already expanded. He was just researching for like six weeks of how to grow something outside of what’s traditionally being grown and I can’t say what it is yet. But I’m really excited for him. So you know when the energy costs drop and you experience the economies of scale in the space. But you also have more money coming back in. because you can sell crops you traditionally haven’t been able to and it allows the urban farming space to grow. So to answer that question better I don’t think traditional farming will go away anytime soon just because of the fact that this is relatively new. But one thing that’s really great and we’ll see continue to boom is you know, it mitigates seasonality. You can grow this stuff year-round and that’s really valuable.

Amy: But we think that it’s, you know we think urban agriculture is more than just a mason jar filled with a local beer or some you know hipster craze. This is here to stay. This is kind of the future of our food.

Sarah: I like to [15:01 inaudible] eat more than they drink. So they should care a lot more about it. But yeah I mean it hopefully will become a new norm very very quickly and you know people won’t have to worry about why my iceberg lettuce traveled 1800 miles.

Amy: I don’t even think people know that. I certainly didn’t know that.

Sarah: No most people don’t and not quite frankly I learned a lot of this very recently. Because in our lifetime we’ve grown up in a much-commercialized system.

Amy: That’s how we knew and so my passion is becoming, has become creating a better system very quickly and creating a platform to do that. That’s why I dropped everything to go do it. So here we are.

Food Waste in the Supply Chain

Sarah: Yeah more power to you sister. so I guess I kind of takes me to my next question is you know what else needs to be done and do you think that, I mean I certainly wasn’t that people are aware of really what’s going on with our food in the US and on a global scale. I mean how you think people should find out about companies like yours that are you know really mitigating food waste in the supply chain. What do you think?

Amy: I think you certainly have to make an effort. but the best way for companies… the way that I learned about some of the most important companies are out there whether it be in the tech space, waste mitigation, sustainability whatever it might be; I think people have to raise awareness and I think that a really owned content. Whether it be via social media or reading a podcast like this. I think you have to really do it in unique ways where you can get traction and do it as often as possible. Because things like this are free, social media is free and if you can talk about and in turn it drives business to you or the right places to solve these problems, you know there’s a lot of ways to do it and people really care about it. There’s plenty of free ways to do it. Now there’s a lot of expensive ways you can do these things too. But now I think its leveraging free platforms first and foremost.

Amy: And I think the content on those platforms you know I always thought that there were two major motivators in life and one of them being love and the other one being and so sometimes you’ll be more inclined to watch a video on Facebook or something on Instagram if it has some of those scary statistics. You know you see that keeping wasting your garbage can for too long can have the same effects on your body as cancer and that video spread like wildfire. You know everybody has like a crazy aunt on Facebook. She is always sharing all the sad stuff. You know I think that there’s a platform there where we can almost not scare people, but shock them a little bit. Because that 40% number I don’t think a lot of people know about that. I mean that’s wild.

Sarah: Absolutely an awareness issue in the same way Rubicon’s had to raise awareness about how much people waste. People don’t know. They know that they’re probably not doing a very good job and you know it is what it is. But in order to create change and get people to take action, it takes things like you know starting a podcast like this like you’ve done and you know that’s how you get the needle to move.

Companies Raising Awareness About Food Waste in America

Amy: So obviously I work at Rubicon, you’re an alumni. We love Rubicon and I don’t want to make this sound like a commercial for it. So what other major companies do you see they’re doing a really good job besides us of raising awareness about food waste and other environmental issues?

Sarah: You know who I think has done an incredible job recently is Netflix.

Amy: Really?

Sarah: Netflix has more and more documentaries. One that I watched that was really really powerful from an environmental perspective the other day was I believe it’s called “Chasing Coral” and it’s talking about all the coral reefs that are dying and how quickly and yeah you’ve heard about that. But you don’t know how bad it is and they’re buying up documentaries like this. taking, not only you know keeping them on the platform for a while and putting it at the top where people can find it and showing how important it is to them as a company, but how important it should be to humanity and everybody’s on Netflix right? That’s a really affordable platform to consume a lot of content some more than others. I’m guilty of consuming quite a bit since I moved to New York. Because the weather’s so wonderful I like to stay inside.

Amy: Yeah I can imagine.

Sarah: Yeah and I think that…

Amy: Like wasted for example you know that was a fantastic…

Sarah: Yeah actually we were one of the companies that were highlighted in there. They flashed some of the logos of companies that are mitigating food waste and I think that was incredibly well done. I was able to watch that I think on Amazon. so the big names that we know that you know people around making that content available and not just making it available, but making it visible.

Amy: And YouTube had, they had scraps. I don’t know if you’ve heard of scraps. I think it was originally maybe on cooking channel. But YouTube was you know monetizing it and promoting it as well. But this guy goes around to different farmers markets and different restaurants and gets their food scraps and then creates dishes out of them for a dinner party.

Sarah: You see actually some restaurants even doing that. There’s a really famous chef named name Dan Barber who actually recently launched a…

Amy: I just emailed him an hour and a half ago.

Sarah: Amazing.

Amy: Do you know him?

Sarah: We talked with his team.

Amy: Dan Barbara holler at us, come on the podcast.

Sarah: So yeah I think he’s really incredible. So not only does he really embrace the farm-to-table movement and he’s done an incredible job with that restaurant. It turns out for six months I lived a half a block from that restaurant when I moved to New York and I didn’t know what it was and I hate that. but now I’m obsessed with it and I think that he’s found really unique ways to use all of the parts of food and make it really tasty and all the while he does that he’s been able to make that a favorite restaurant of people like President Obama and Michelle Obama. You know that’s one of their favorite places to go. So this isn’t a trend. This is here to stay.

Q&A with Sarah

Amy: You’re absolutely right. Okay Sarah now is my favorite part of the show. I love having guests on. I really have free rein to just kind of ask you whatever I want. So I’ve curated 15 rapid-fire questions for you. I spoke about in the last podcast. But we had mark Spiegel on. You know he’s known around the office for just shooting off random questions and I asked him…

Sarah: I am familiar with that.

Amy: Yeah I knew you would be and I asked him some goodies. But I really worked hard on these. Just say the first thing that comes to your head. Are you ready?

Sarah: I hope so. Alright let’s do this.

Amy: Who was your celebrity crush growing up?

Sarah: Leonardo DiCaprio, [21:32 inaudible] Lester.

Amy: Yeah he’s also just my celebrity crush now. Yeah Leo also come on the podcast, we’d love to have you. What is the best Halloween costume that you ever wore?

Sarah: I know the answer I’m gonna say it anyway. I made a fake ID costume and I put my head and where the picture was. Freshman year of college I won a lot of awards at a costume contest.

Amy: Oh my god that’s so smart. Did you get in the bar?

Sarah: Yeah I did, sorry mom, sorry dad.

Amy: It’s okay.

Sarah: They love me [21:58 inaudible]

Amy: If you could trade lives with anybody for a day, who would you trade with and why?

Sarah: Elon Musk. I want to know what he’s got up his sleeve. I want to know how soon we are getting to mars. I think it’s fascinating. Some people think its nuts. But I it’s unbelievable the way that he thinks, a visionary that he is. It’s an easy answer.

Amy: Name your perfect sandwich. I threw some food ones in there I figure that’s [22:20 inaudible]

Sarah: I love a good club sandwich with Turkey, honey ham. It has to be southern [22:25 inaudible]…

Amy: Here you go now she’s building it.

Sarah: And roast beef.

Amy: Damn that is a good sandwich. Do you have a hidden talent besides sandwich making?

Sarah: I’m actually really great at baking. I try not to do it very often because I end up eating.

Amy: What’s the best thing that you bake?

Sarah: Funfetti cookies. But that’s just shameful answer. Because that’s already pre-made for you. [22:46 inaudible] can make that. Cheesecake…

Amy: There’s a Steven Satterfield. He’s a James Beard Award winner and he has a restaurant Atlanta called “Miller Union” and I love it. He actually wrote the root to leaf cookbook and he has a carrot cake recipe using all the parts of the carrot.

Sarah: I love carrot cake. Actually every year for my birthday [23:09 inaudible] my mom gets me a carrot cake.

Amy: I think that’s weird, but I’m trying not to judge you.

Sarah: All right next question.

Amy: what is your most used emoji?

Sarah: Probably the laughing emoji.

Amy: Like the laugh cry?

Sarah: I tend to have it, yeah yeah. Like I have a very humorous group of friends and I love it.

Amy: And what is your phone lock screen background?

Sarah: Oh it’s all vegetables. Where is it? I kept it over there.

Amy: It is vegetables.

Sarah: its vegetables. I use it on our investment deck, in our sales material.

Amy: That’s funny. What is the first thing that you do when you get up in the morning?

Sarah: Unfortunately check my phone.

Amy: I know it’s a habit. I actually did not have my phone at all until one o’clock this afternoon.

Sarah: That’s impressive.

Amy: I left it at my house. Yeah well then I went out to lunch with some of my co-workers and had my boyfriend drop it off because I was like itching and I felt naked.

Sarah: I actually feel really good right now. I left mine in the corner on airplane mode.

Amy: There you go. You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?

Sarah: People are gonna laugh when they hear this. Any rap song. I love Biggie.

Amy: I love Tupac.

Sarah: Put a biggie track on.

Amy: There you go East Coast, West Coast rivalry.

Sarah: Most people would expect a girl to say a song and sing. But I can’t sing.

Amy: so you can rap?

Sarah: I try.

Amy: I won’t make you spin any bars for us.

Sarah: [24:29 inaudible] doesn’t mean I’m good at it. But I do it.

Amy: What’s the one movie that you can quote the most?

Sarah: The sweetest thing.

Amy: That’s a good movie.

Sarah: It’s a good chick flick.

Amy: That’s a good movie.

Sarah: Yeah I love it.

Amy: If you could magically be fluent in any language, what language would you be fluent in?

Sarah: Okay so I’m gonna say Arabic. So my co-founders first language is Arabic and I’m itching to learn it. So many people in the world speak it and you know I’ve only traveled to Israel. But there’s so much of the Middle East I want to see.

Amy: That’s a good answer. What was your first concert?

Sarah: NSYNC, Pink opened. It was a big deal.

Amy: The day that pink was an opener, that’s insane.

Sarah: Yeah it was Lexington, Kentucky, I was like 10.

Amy: It’s amazing. So when you cook what is your signature dish? Do you cook or do you just bake?

Sarah: No I cook. I actually really love to cook. It’s hard to do it in New York. Cause you’re dealing with like a miniature sized kitchen.

Amy: Yeah my friend keeps her sweaters in her oven.

Sarah: Yeah that’s great. Yeah I do cook. It’s a really easy dish. It’s cranberry chicken. Use a whole berry cranberry sauce, Catalina dressing, this onion soup mix. Mix it together, bake it like you normally baked chicken on 350.

Amy: That sounds really good.

Sarah: I mean it’s really good. I bake it with a couple seasonal vegetables and long grain wild rice. It’s wonderful. Stole that from my mother.

Amy: Yeah that sounds like home cooking.

Sarah: She’s a southern woman. She knows [26:02 inaudible] she’s fun.

Amy: If you had to be on a reality show, which show would you go on and why?

Sarah: So I’m just gonna put it out there. I hate reality television.

Amy: Okay but everybody… you would go on… it could even be a game show. [26:17 inaudible]

Sarah: If we call The Amazing Race reality television…

Amy: That is absolutely a reality TV show.

Sarah: That is a dream for me to be on The Amazing Race. I love it. I’m competitive. I love to travel. I’m all over it.

Amy: And that is a reality show. So now you like reality TV.

Sarah: Okay that’s like the only one.

Amy: Describe your perfect Saturday.

Sarah: It involves good food, good sports, good friends that’s easy. I don’t care where it is, as long as I have those things I’m happy.

Conclusion & Goodbyes

Amy: Sarah thank you so much for popping into the old stomping ground. Dropping some serious knowledge on us. But before we sign off let everyone know where they can find more info about you, about Bon Harvest. So this is the time you can plug whatever you want.

Sarah: Yeah so you can find me on LinkedIn. My email address is You can look us up on the web site. We also have a social media presence.

Amy: Awesome thank you so much Sarah.

Sarah: Yeah thank you.

Amy: This is fun.

Sarah: Awesome thanks Amy