Through St. Louis–based startup Foodshed.io, Daniel Beckmann, AB ’01, and Clare Sullivan, AB ’02, are reimagining our local food supply chain and creating a win-win-win for small family farmers, grocers and consumers. “We’re increasing the supply of nutritious food in urban supermarkets and developing new markets for local farmers,” says Sullivan, who leads the company’s supply chain management and ensures that its technology works for all users.
After furnishing an app that connects local farmers with grocers, Foodshed.io handles the complicated logistics behind deceptively simple transactions — planning yield with local farms to meet grocer demand; designing a distribution network that delivers the food still ripe and fresh from the vine; and supplying the vision to sustain that contact between farm, grocer and consumer on a regional scale.
A proof of concept is in Foodshed.io’s recent three-year, $15 million contract with St. Louis–based supermarket chain Schnucks, which operates more than 100 stores. The relationship is already a game changer, says Beckmann, Foodshed.io’s CEO, allowing consumers throughout St. Louis access to fresh produce at affordable prices.
“It starts with having demand,” says Beckmann of Foodshed.io’s business plan. “The fact that Schnucks is committing to buy this produce before it’s planted takes a lot of burden off the farmers. It’s rare to get a commitment like that, and we hope it becomes the trend.”
Foodshed.io also works with St. Louis–area restaurants and WashU’s food service. Due to how its grown and distributed, the food is fresher, has more nutrients and tastes better.
The idea for Foodshed.io originated in 2011, when Sullivan and her husband, Tom Hallaran, began a project to gain temporary access to vacant lots in Brooklyn, New York, in order to grow local produce and open community gardens. Sullivan had moved with her husband to New York to attend Columbia, while Beckmann was in and out of New York working in his other career as an award-winning journalist.
“Dan and I met at WashU in 1998,” Sullivan says. “Tom worked in St. Louis as a software developer at WashU’s Human Genome Center.” The three friends recognized a gap that prevented small farms like theirs from reaching bigger markets. Later, they applied that expertise toward the Midwest’s diverse farming system, co-founding
Foodshed.io in 2016. “As a result of the time we spent in St. Louis, we three share a commitment to it,” Sullivan says.
While Foodshed.io operates locally, the team is thinking globally. They are working with local growers to regeneratively repair and ultimately sustain the region’s rich topsoil, a yearslong effort to ensure the land’s potential. In this way, they hope to add another win to their expanding business concept: promoting a sustainable farming model that benefits our planet, one region at a time.