These first-year MBAs are trying to solve America’s food waste problem — Ricky Ashenfelter

MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Certificate program, which is designed for MBA students who want to dig deep with the goal of becoming innovators in the field, has inspired the creation of new ventures. Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina—both current students—approach the food industry from an entrepreneurial standpoint. Their new venture, Spoiler Alert, is a web-based marketplace for the real-time exchange of local supply and demand information for surplus, expiring, and spoiled food. Ricky blogged about his new company at Bloomberg Businessweek..

Jason Jay, Director, Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

MIT Sloan MBA Candidate Ricky Ashenfelter

Ricky Ashenfelter, MBA ’15

From Bloomberg Businessweek

Americans throw out almost a third of their food annually—the equivalent of more than $160 billion—while almost 15 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table. Add to this the continuing depletion of our limited natural resources for fuel and fertilizer, and what you have is a business opportunity to redirect landfill-bound waste to people in need and to businesses that can do something productive with it.

My classmate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, Emily Malina, and I are trying to do just that with a mobile application and enterprise software platform built on the principles of the sharing economy. Our business venture, Spoiler Alert, is an online marketplace for the real-time exchange of local supply-and-demand information for excess, expiring, and spoiled food.

The food waste problem is ripe for innovation. Here in Massachusetts, a commercial food waste ban will go into effect this summer. And last fall, the former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, announced the opening of a Boston-based store that will prepare and sell donated, excess food to cost-conscious consumers.

Most solutions that aim to address the food waste issue tend to be local, ad hoc collaborations that do not maximize the potential value of donations, waste diversion, and food repurposing. Our vision for Spoiler Alert has the potential to seamlessly connect every major player in the food-supply chain. Food retailers with large amounts of spoiled food could use Spoiler Alert to reach farmers, composters, and bio-energy producers that can convert that waste into less energy-intensive forms of fertilizer and fuel. This lowers their costs and could even create new revenue streams.

 

Read the full post at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Ricky Ashenfelter is a first year MBA Candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also the Managing Director of this year’s MIT Clean Energy Prize.

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