As a kid in Northern Virginia, Foraged cofounder Jack Hamrick first had his interest piqued in the natural environment through hunting and fishing.
From there, he pursued environmental degrees from the University of Virginia. And while food sustainability was always in the back of his mind, it never led to anything until he was searching for chicken of the woods mushrooms and was unable to find them anywhere. At the same time, he learned that a certified forager friend had 10 pounds available, but couldn’t figure out where to sell them.
As it turns out, foraging, or finding food from nature, is an extremely fragmented market, Hamrick said — especially because you can’t intentionally grow most varieties of mushrooms. Still, the abundance of engaged foragers on Facebook groups and other platforms, with products ready to sell, gave him an idea.
“If you take this very fragmented market and combine it with an incredibly passionate community and put that together on a platform marketplace, that’s a huge unlock,” Hamrick told Technical.ly.
In 2021, that idea turned into Foraged, an online marketplace for foragers. The company, which operates remotely, just raised $2.7 million in a seed round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Yelp cofounder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Stubhub cofounder Eric Baker, Shopify President Harley Finkelstein and Fiverr founder and CEO Micha Koffman also took part in the round. To date, the company has raised $3 million, which includes an investment from “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio.
Foraged offers customers the chance to buy foraged and sustainably grown produce, meat, seafood and more while offering sellers a willing customer base (currently available on its website: pickled milkweed pods, hickory bark, black walnuts, elderberries and a whole lot of foraged mushrooms, among other items). Similar to platforms like Etsy, consumers buy directly from the seller through the Foraged site, and they will either receive the product in the mail or can pick up local products. Foraged takes care of shipping, payments, photo uploads, messages between sellers and customers and managing the local pickups. It also vets sellers before they can list anything on the site to make sure that the product meets the company’s ethical and sustainable standards.
Foraged started off only selling non-psychedelic edible mushrooms, and Harmick said that the company had revenue in the first week and a few hundred customers within the first month. Over the past year the company has had 400% revenue growth and operates in all 50 states, as well as DC, Puerto Rico and multiple countries worldwide.
The eight-person team helps build sustainability in the food scene, he said, because most of the sellers are harvesting with little to no carbon input. It’s also eliminating steps in the supply chain by selling directly to consumers and encouraging local commerce and pickups. He also said that sellers aren’t incentivized to overharvest, because if they take too much, they lose their supply for future orders.
“By combining that production of very little inputs with direct-to-consumer supply chain infrastructure, you cut out a huge amount of waste from the current industry setup,” Hamrick said.
With the funds, Foraged plans to continue to build out the tools and features of its marketplace, though Hamrick said that likely won’t mean any hiring. The team is also currently working on an app option for consumers.
Through Foraged, Hamrick ultimately wants to create a full-scope solution for food businesses and connect to customers everywhere.
“It breaks down limits of geography: If you want to get Oregon truffles, how you’re going to get them unless you’re in Oregon?” Hamrick said. “But with the app, you’ll be able to have everything from a point of sale to tap to pay solution where all of your inventory and everything you do in the marketplace world, is now in your pocket.”
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