A lot of students want to save the world, but Michael Snow and Steven Johnson want to save food.
On an LDS mission in Cambodia, Snow, a recent BYU grad in exercise science, saw the disparity between the rich and poor and came up with an idea to solve food waste.
“I thought that if we could tackle food waste in the United States, we’d have so much more to give to people in need,” Snow says.
He eventually brought up the idea to Johnson, a recreation management senior, and Halo Freeze Dry was born.
Halo Freeze Dry aims to reduce the amount of food waste by freeze-drying excess food and selling and donating the surplus to grocery stores, food banks, and disaster relief organizations.
As their venture developed, the pair connected with the Ballard Center’s Social Venture Academy (SVA), a program that connects student entrepreneurs with the resources and knowledge to make their social venture a reality. Snow and Johnson entered Halo Freeze Dry into a series of SVA competitions, including the Best Idea Competition, the Social Innovation Fair, and Best Product. Throughout these phases, Halo Freeze Dry received positive feedback and grant money.
The duo used the grant money to fund a trip to Oregon Freeze Dry, the largest facility of its kind in the United States, where they researched how to scale their venture. The trip proved to be a valuable step in the development of Halo Freeze Dry. During their visit, the two learned it would take much more than freeze-dry machines to scale their idea. They would also need to acquire dehumidifying rooms, manage multiple employees, and meet intense regulations from agencies like the FDA and USDA.
“The Ballard Center has played a huge part for us in researching the industry and the current techniques that are being used to reduce waste,” Snow says. “This trip allowed us to see the reality of what it takes to run a freeze-dry facility and helped us move closer to our goal of implementing an operation at the food bank level.”
The two now have their sights set on the SVA’s final phase: Best Venture and its $17,000 prize. Johnson and Snow say the Ballard Center’s support has been invaluable to their success.
“It’s kept the dream alive,” Johnson says. “We’ve gotten validation through the events and competitions and learned that people are passionate about our idea. Without the Ballard Center, it would have been easy to lose our drive.”
Writer: Alex Burch