‘Shark Tank’: Will The Sharks Bite On Hungry Harvest?

Many great ideas start on college campuses — and many of those ideas end up on Shark Tank. On Friday night, one such college-grown idea will step onto the carpet, but it comes with a twist: the company is not about new technology or a consumer product for millennials. It’s food.

Hungry Harvest recovers “ugly” produce that would normally not make it to supermarket shelves and sells it through a subscription service. For every box sold, food is also donated to people in need. Founder Evan Lutz told Baltimore Magazine that his experience with a campus food recovery movement sparked the idea.

“I realized this was much bigger and could be scaled to a for-profit business model. Grocery stores reject entire truckloads of produce, and it’s crazy because they are full of fantastic, fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Boxes are sold in three sizes, ranging from $15-$55, and are sent weekly to customers. Lutz said people do not need convincing that receiving a regular supply of vegetables is a good idea — they just sometimes question whether or not it’s as good as going to the supermarket. Lutz emphasizes that just because markets say no to the produce doesn’t mean it’s not high-quality — in fact, sometimes it’s superior to what’s found in retail stores.

“Our biggest hurdle is explaining what surplus produce is and convincing people that it’s fresh. In reality, it’s a lot of food that gets rejected due to odd shape or size, or just at random. A lot of our produce is fresher than what you get at the grocery store because it hasn’t been sitting out.”

Technical.ly Baltimore reported that Hungry Harvest has a core staff of five, but hires people living at local shelters are independent contractors. The company has about 600 subscribers, most in the Washington, D.C., White Marsh, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia areas. According to its website, Hungry Harvest plans to begin delivery in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Richmond.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Shark Tank producers approached Lutz last February. He went ahead with the lengthy application process, produced a YouTube video, and taped his segment last June. Lutz only found out in December about his upcoming air date, and he’s planning a viewing party.

Lutz prepared for his Shark Tank appearance by watching old episodes and preparing a 13-page document of questions he might be asked. His nerves kicked in five minutes before he stepped onto the carpet to face the sharks. In his YouTube video, Lutz throws out a request for $200,000 for 20 percent of the company, but said in the actual Shark Tank pitch he requested $50,000 for 5 percent—a valuation of $1 million.

Despite his diligence and his in-depth knowledge of his own company, Lutz said pitching the sharks was an intimidating experience—partly because of who they are, and partly because of the audience watching at home.

“I do press and talk to investors all the time, but this was a little different. You’re standing in front of five famous people, while 8 million more people are watching, trying to convince them to give you money. It’s not easy.”

He expected the Shark Tank editors would do their best to make the segment dramatic, although he feels that he “nailed it.” Any investment funds will be directed towards marketing and increasing the company’s customer base.

Viewers can find out how Hungry Harvest fares on Shark Tank, Friday night at 9 pm on ABC.

[Photo courtesy of Hungry Harvest/Instagram]