When you talk with startups trying to combat food waste, you hear a common refrain: you can’t get to absolute zero–there will always be some waste in the system. While we may never hit zero food waste, Copia is a software company fighting to get as close to that as possible through a combination of prevention and recovery.
Based in San Francisco, Copia offers a suite of web apps to help companies that produce or purchase large amounts of food track, analyze and manage inventories. Their customers include organizations that make food, such as the UCSF Medical center cafeteria, and startups like Lyft that provide catered food for employee meals.
With Copia, these clients can track how waste is occurring, such as over production or over purchasing a particular protein, and where in the organization waste is occurring. A site like UCSF provides meals for patients, meals in a commissary as well as event food, and Copia helps them figure out where loss is occurring in which line of business. According to Copia, UCSF has actually reduced its edible surplus by three percent month over month through 2017.
Copia is among a cohort of companies that are using software and analytics to help companies manage food inventories. Others in the space include LeanPath, which provides cafeterias with a scale to precisely measure pre-consumer waste, and Spoiler Alert, which works with large food distributors to move excess inventory.
Unlike these other startups, however, Copia also provides a recovery solution on the back end. When there is excess, Copia’s app can help connect this unused food with a non-profit in need. Additionally, Copia’s software will also help companies figure out and calculate tax benefits for any donations made. In the Bay Area, Copia even employees its own set of drivers and can deliver food within the city of San Francisco in 12 minutes, or 26 minutes across Silicon Valley. Copia says that it redirects 60,000 pounds of food a month to non-profits in the greater Bay Area.
In an age of increasingly conscious capitalism, Copia also helps bolster the brand image of its clients. Customers can showcase how much food it has recovered or waste prevented or water saved both externally and internally.
Copia currently has 15 employees and according to Crunchbase has raised $140,000 in seed funding. The company operates in the Bay Area, Denver, Austin, Dallas and will start up in Los Angeles next month.
Zero food waste may be impossible, but watching startups like Copia reminds you of how much is possible to improve both the lives of people in need and our planet.