The regenerative food tech company is on a mission to revolutionize how food is managed along supply chains, while also addressing the global challenges of food waste, nutrition and climate change.
San Francisco, California-based regenerative food tech company Treasure8 is seeking funds to help propel it on its mission — to revolutionize how food is managed along supply chains, and address the global challenges of food waste, nutrition and climate change along the way.
“The world is waking up to the fact that we’re cooking ourselves — there is a need for solutions that are not some incremental growth, year after year; they need to come right out the gate as a revolutionary, step-change function,” Timothy Childs, Treasure8’s co-CEO, told Sustainable Brands in a recent interview.
Childs — who previously founded Berkeley, Calif.-based conscious chocolate company TCHO Chocolate in 2006 — founded Treasure8 more than six years ago, though it has only recently gone public with what the team believes is a game-changing model. At the center is Treasure8’s core technology — a patented dehydration tool, built in cooperation with the USDA and UC Davis, that they call Sauna, which can fully dehydrate fruits and vegetables without stripping them of nutrients, using far less energy than existing technologies. It also, as I verified during a visit to the company’s facility on Treasure Island, produces far superior dried snacks than what you’ll currently find on shelves across the US.
GroundRules dehydrated beet chips | Image credit: Treasure8
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Food waste has been a key issue for those in the agricultural industry for some time now, since it was first recognized as an issue earlier this decade. The figures are staggering: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion metric tons of food is wasted globally each year. Here in the United States, an estimated 26 percent of all food produced is wasted. Moreover, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world after China and the US, due to methane emissions produced from food in landfills and transportation emissions from wasted food.
Treasure8’s approach to making a dent in the issue is sourcing what would otherwise be wasted produce from production facilities, for redemption as nutritious, dehydrated food snacks — along with an array of other products, including pet food, nutraceuticals and biofuel.
“There is a major problem, and we need to do everything in our power to continue to work as hard as we can to make an impact, and make a difference,” Childs said. “We’ve been working on a systemic, end-to-end approach that can scale globally and can make a significant impact in a short time.”
The good news is that the food waste issue has gone mainstream, and Treasure8 is just one of many startups and nonprofits working in this area. Others focus on a specific sector — for example, companies such as Imperfect Produce works solely with farmers who can’t sell ugly-looking fruits and vegetables, while Olio has developed an app that connects scavengers with bakeries, restaurants or grocery stores that have unsold, soon-to-spoil goods.
While those efforts are making real, meaningful impacts, tackling the scale of the global food waste problem and its impact on the climate means we need radical transformation of how the global food production and distribution system is run. That’s where Treasure8 aims to make a difference.
“It’s not like we’re taking some leftover waste from a restaurant and making a pie that day,” Childs said. “We’re doing something that’s gotta have buy-in from output sources, and buy-in from the input sources that works through the system.”
The true potential of Treasure8 lies not in the crispiness of the apple and beet chips that its dryers produce, but its ability to scale rapidly. Its systems are energy-efficient, compact and can be adapted for a wide variety of supply chains. They also can produce uniform outputs, something that is critical for really shifting the global food system, which relies on stable sources and reliable, quality products.
Image credit: Treasure8
Treasure8 also believes it can have a positive impact for nutrition — another global challenge. Because its technology allows for a higher percentage of nutrients to remain within food during the drying process, it could be used to produce healthy products. Its trial products reflect this: Ground Rules Chips — organic, one-ingredient fruit and vegetable (beet, apple or sweet potato) chips; and the vegan One Smart Cookie — which includes 25 percent veggies by volume. Both, of course, are designed to use food waste as key ingredients.
Currently, Treasure8 is seeking funding to expand its model and beginning to work with more companies to use its technology to reduce food waste; its goal is not to grow to sell lots of products, but to co-manufacture CPG products or ingredients, or spin them off as separate entities — also potentially licensing or leasing the Sauna technology to other companies. Getting to the level where the company can make a real dent in reducing food waste will be a challenge, one that the company is ready for.
“I love this company and how it is, and the promise of what it can do continues to unfold every day,” Childs said. Still, he sees the real test coming with how the company scales. “Are our systems global yet? No. Until that is rolling on every major continent, and without me having to do a lot of the lift, I’m not going to be satisfied, frankly.”