Nate Heinold and Travis Rosenbluth are helping bring farmers and chefs together to put locally-sourced ingredients in restaurants with their recently launched web platform, Harvestable.
The pair of co-founders were introduced by a mutual friend in downtown Fargo, and the seed of the company began to germinate even during that first meeting.
“We kind of just romanticized about how to source locally from a vibrant agricultural area like Fargo,” Rosenbluth said.
Harvestable, the product of their collaboration, takes the form of an online, business-to-business marketplace in which farmers are able to sell their produce directly to chefs and restaurants. The transactions are of benefit to both groups.
Locally-sourcing ingredients is one of the major food trends of the last several years. (As Heinold noted, “Even major brands like Chipotle are pushing local sourcing.”) Harvestable can connect chefs more directly with local farmers whose products can punch up their pantries.
“They’re looking for unique ingredients, high quality ingredients,” Heinold said.
And on the farming side, Heinold noted that there has been a race to the bottom for farmers in terms of making food cheaper, but they have generally lost money in this race instead of making more.
“There’s no fundamental bedrock for them to rise off of,” Rosenbluth added.
Although Harvestable is aimed at food producers and restaurant workers, the service provides an indirect benefit to the general population of people eating out at area restaurants.
“The third customer is really the eaters, or restaurant-goers,” Heinold said, “because they really care about where their food comes from.”
It has historically been a challenge for smaller farmers to get their produce into restaurants. Harvestable strives to simplify the process.
“A lot of our time is spent talking to farmers and looking at their past relationships with restaurants,” Heinold said.
The Harvestable web app soft-launched in July at the Red River Market, and the site later fully launched in August. Users can sign up to use the Harvestable web service now.
“Our customer feedback is very positive,” Rosenbluth said. “They really like the tool.”
Chefs reportedly said produce purchased through Harvestable was the best they’ve received through their kitchen. An older farmer using the site has also found it easy to use. They have both older and millennial farmers using the Harvestable platform, and one of their goals in building it was to make sure it was usable to a broad base of farmers, who tend to be super busy people, and who vary in their levels of tech savvy.
One of the next steps for the company is branching out into other marketplaces, since their product is built on agriculture and the winter months limit the growing season in Fargo.
Heinold and Rosenbluth are also looking for investors and collaborators passionate about area agriculture and about the mission of the company.
“We really believe in community and the power of food,” Heinold said. “Connecting the two is our guiding North Star.”
Nate Heinold and Travis Rosenbluth will present on Harvestable at 1 Million Cups Fargo on September 26. For more information on Harvestable, visit http://www.harvestable.com. 1 Million Cups Fargo takes place each Wednesday from 9:15-10:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.