A Columbia-based produce business, Hungry Harvest, received $100,000 on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a reality show in which “shark” tycoons invest in what they consider to be the most promising entrepreneurs.
Hungry Harvest, dedicated to ending food waste and hunger, is a resident company in the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), an incubator operated by the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA).
“Six billon pounds of produce go to waste each year. It is very tough for farmers to grow the exact amount of produce that they are contracted to grow,” said Evan Lutz, 23, CEO and co-founder of Hungry Harvest. “We purchase surplus produce from local farms and wholesalers that would normally get thrown away, not because it is bad or rotten, but because it is ugly.”
Hungry Harvest then takes this ugly produce, repackages it into variety bags and delivers it to its customers’ doorsteps. The packages range in cost from $15 to $35, including delivery, and for each bag purchased, Hungry Harvest donates 1.6 pounds of produce to help feed hungry families.
It was an idea that ultimately resulted in an offer from investor Robert Herjavec. Lutz went on the show asking for $50,000 in exchange for 5% equity in the company, but Herjavec upped the ante by offering him $100,000 in exchange for 10%.
“Instead of just writing another check, I have been looking for a way to give people an opportunity that empowers them,” said Herjavec on the show. “This is something that I want to do.”
Lutz said this will jump start Hungry Harvest so it can expand across the country. “We want to make sure that every single hungry family in America gets fed and that every single piece of fruit or vegetable that would normally get thrown away does not get wasted,” he said.
Hungry Harvest not only captured attention on the show — it also has won the hearts of other local business owners.
“After hearing this story, like many, I am highly motivated to support Hungry Harvest,” said Brian Jolles, CEO of Ellicott City-based Jolles Insurance. “I have already reached out to Evan Lutz to ask if Hungry Harvest will take part in Family Wellness Day and other We Promote Health Inc. initiatives.”
Jolles is also the president and founder of We Promote Health, a nonprofit effort he started whose mission is “to bring together the entire community, challenging every organization, public and private, and every citizen, to make a commitment to healthy living.”