by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed
Promising businesses in the Midwest’s local and sustainable food sector have raised $11 million from investors over the past three years by participating in FamilyFarmed’s annual Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. Not surprisingly, this year’s event — coming up on Thursday, March 19 at Chicago’s UIC Forum — has another lineup of outstanding entrepreneurs.
The Financing & Innovation Conference kicks off the three-day 11th annual Good Food Festival & Conference, the nation’s oldest and biggest trade event focused on local and sustainably produced food. Headlining the day’s networking programs are seven enterprises that are confirmed to pitch their business plans to an audience of seasoned investors, financiers, and lenders in the Good Food arena.
The new wrinkle at this year’s event is that four of the businesses that are winding up to pitch at the Conference are in the first group of Fellows in FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator program, which was launched last fall. Those four are:
• dailyServing, a startup that produces a line of “functional food” products that combine a cold-pressed juice with a container of dry foods that, together, aim to address a specific activity. Its target market is made up of busy people who want a quick and tasty snack or light meal that also provides a healthy boost. Shane Christensen, a co-founder of the Chicago-based company, will present at the Conference. [Good Food on Every Table previously published an article that focuses on dailyServing.]
• Food Trace has created an innovative technology-based platform that facilitates business relationships, expands the supply chain for local and sustainable food, and provides a means to share more traceable information with consumers. Founder Riana Lynn will represent the Chicago-based company.
• Living Water Farms is a year-round greenhouse produce-growing operation in Strawn, Illinois (about 110 miles south of Chicago) that specializes in specialty salad greens, microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers. Mark Schneider, Living Water’s CEO and president, will present about its plans to expand to a much-larger facility that would enable the operation to greatly increase its volume and range of products. [Good Food on Every Table previously published an article that focuses on Living Water Farms.]
• Urban Canopy promotes urban agriculture and economic opportunity in Chicago. Urban Canopy founder Alex Poltorak, who will pitch on behalf of the company, has developed a complex of rooftop farms, indoor growing facilities, outdoor growing in vacant lots, compost collection, farmers market management, and a food hub to the benefit of underserved communities on the city’s South Side.
Pitches by three confirmed companies at the afternoon’s traditional Financing Fair will follow the morning presentations by the Accelerator. Those three are:
• Fair Acre Traders, based in Chicago, is building supply of local and regional food to satisfy growing consumer demand by working with regional supply networks of growers and food hubs, and facilitating sales from these producers and aggregators to large wholesale buyers. CEO Daphne Mazarakis will represent Fair Acre at the Financing Fair.
• Farmhouse has restaurants in Chicago and Evanston that are among the region’s strongest advocates of local sourcing. It seeks, whenever possible, to use ingredients produced in the states that ring Lake Michigan, and their beverage program is also heavily oriented to the region. Farmhouse has recently moved in a new direction by producing its own hard ciders from heirloom apples grown in Wisconsin. Owner T.J. Callahan will present Farmhouse’s pitch.
• Locally Laid is building a growing business in locally produced eggs fueled by a creative marketing campaign built around its colorful name. Based in Wrenshall, Minnesota (near Duluth), Locally Laid is traveling the longest distance to participate in the Financing Fair. Jason Amundsen, who runs the company with wife Lucie, will present at the event.
Beyond those companies that are pitching, there are 21 enterprises that are planning to exhibit at the Financing Fair. Please click the links to learn more about these great food and farm businesses.