Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1156964

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Page 28 of 91

Alli Cecchini Erggelet and Julian Erggelet, First Generation Farmers and The Urban Edge Farm Sheetal Bahirat and Zuri Masud, co-founders, Avoh! While making guacamole in the kitchen at the Drexel Food Lab, students Sheetal Bahirat, 32, and Zuri Masud, 28, realized they had accumulated quite a large pile of scraps, which was counterproductive to their mission at Drexel. "We ended up with more avocado peels and seeds than pulp," says Bahirat. "Considering that I am a food waste researcher and that the food lab works on making upcycled ingredients, there was no way that I could throw them away." Avocado seeds alone contribute about 15 million pounds of waste each week in the U.S. So instead of adding to that, Bahirat and Masud brainstormed how they could reuse it. The result is Avoh!, a ready-to-drink tea beverage created from a patented process that extracts the nutrients from avocado seeds while making them compostable. Currently, Avoh! is waiting on FDA approval before launching commercially. Bahirat explains, "As something like this has never been done before, we have been work- ing on understanding the chemical composition of the extract and ensuring there are no toxins in the beverage." In the meantime, Bahirat and Masud have raised $12,000 in grant money to help conduct taste tests with over 500 consumers and have teamed with Whole Foods Market and local restaurants to source the avocado seeds. The students have also identified a USDA-certified production facility with the capacity to fill 20,000 bottles a day so that Avoh! can ramp up operations and scale the business.—Arielle Feger Alli Cecchini Erggelet and Julian Erggelet, both age 31, are farmers who are growing more than just crops. Through their First Generation Farmers organization and their organic farming enterprise, The Urban Edge Farm, they are also seeking to cultivate a new genera- tion of mindful, knowledgeable farmers. Cecchini Erggelet founded First Generation Farmers in 2013 on her parents' farm in Knightsen, Calif., as part of an effort to connect the farm with the needs of the com- munity. FGF offers an educational program for students in grades K-8 on a functioning farm that includes composting, native plantings, a small orchard, free-range ducks and chickens, and Nigerian dwarf goats. Meanwhile, The Urban Edge Farm, in Brentwood, Calif., has taken over FGF's organic vegetable growing operation. It includes an organic orchard, a vineyard, and seven acres of vegetable production. The Urban Edge is also seeking to provide opportunities for other small, local farmers, which was one of the goals of FGF. The fully functioning farm currently includes five beginning farmers growing vegetables and f lowers under the mentorship of the Erggelets. Communication is one of the biggest challenges in a cooperative-style farming model, the Erggelets said in a statement. "We have to get everyone around the table and figure out the ground rules as we move along, how to coordinate who grows what, who has the best tomatoes, and who is the best tractor driver," they said. Raising funds to support FGF, which is a 501(c)-3 nonprofit, is also difficult. "We have had some suc- cess in the past in raising state and federal funds through grant programs, but the administrative effort is a massive challenge to a small organization like ours," the Erggelets note.—Mark Hamstra Age: 31 Established educational program to cultivate a new generation of mindful, knowledgeable farmers Ages: 32 and 28 Created RTD tea beverage from avocado seeds to address food waste PHOTOS: AVOH! PHOTO: FIRST GENERATION FARMERS 26 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com 12 under 35

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