Shooting for the Moon: Using the power of food to rescue the planet

By Arianne Pfoutz

Published: August 31, 2022

Category: Organic and Non-GMO Company Profiles

Moonshot Snacks is “climate-friendly snack brand” with strong commitment to regenerative agriculture

Entrepreneurial visionaries can often be spotted early on. When Julia Collins started the WORM (World Organic Recycling Movement) compost club in seventh grade, it was clear she was already thinking big. And despite a detour into biomedical engineering when she was at Harvard, she’s come full circle to where she’s most at home: the intersection of food and technology.

After her first large venture—robot-powered Zume Pizza—Collin’s pregnancy with her first child steered her toward initiatives that could ameliorate the climate crisis. Recognizing a $605 billion snack industry—and that 34% of greenhouse gas emissions come from land use and agriculture—she aspired to create a net-zero food system hallmarking sustainability and restoration of the earth’s natural carbon balance. Moonshot Snacks, launched in December 2020, has been carbon neutral since day one with a rigorous commitment to regenerative agriculture. The organic, non-GMO crackers are made from organic, stone-milled heirloom wheat grown by two regenerative farmers.

“Moonshot is a climate-friendly snack brand,” Collins said. From seed to end product in recyclable boxes, the company’s carbon footprint is measured and tracked. The large majority of Moonshot’s food supply chain—encompassing harvest to flour mill to baking facility—comes from a 100-mile radius. What’s more, creating a net-zero snack necessitated building a carbon management technology platform, Planet FWD, that food manufacturers and other consumer companies can use to bring climate-friendly products to market. It allows them to calculate carbon footprint, identify emissions reduction opportunities, source high quality carbon offsets, and highlight their sustainable commitment using scientific data.

Align to the vision, details will follow

Collins told AfroTech said that regenerative agriculture is the “first thing I’ve found in a really long time that gives me tremendous hope.”

Regenerative farming creates healthy topsoil, embracing practices including cover cropping, reduced tillage, livestock integration, and minimizing chemical inputs. Moonshot Snacks grew from Collins’ focus on first finding regenerative farmers and then asking, “What are you growing?” Dave and Serena Hedlin in Skagit Valley, WA were producing a tasty, nutrient-dense heirloom wheat that she could envision in a delicious cracker.

“This is a bit like inverse product creation,” Collins said. “Because our entire mission is to use the power of food to help fight climate change, we believed that it was more important to reward farmers who are rebalancing the carbon cycle than it was to solve a perceived gap in the market. Learning about the potential to not only sequester carbon from the atmosphere through these farming practices but to increase biodiversity in the soil and build farm resiliency, I knew that was the right area of focus for this business. It just so happens that we created the world’s tastiest and most hopeful cracker in the process.”

Imperative is educating more farmers and manufacturers about the benefits of regenerative agriculture. Collins is driven by the urgency of neutralizing emissions to reach the 2030 global goal of cutting at least 40% of GHG emissions from 1990 levels. Sustainability is a growing concern for consumers; Planet FWD simplifies the complexity and lowers the cost of bringing such products to market.

“We currently work with over 50 companies to reach their climate goals, from carbon labeling to carbon neutrality, including Just Salad, Numi Organic Tea, PANGAIA, Kroger’s Simple Truth and more,” Collins says.

When retailers and manufacturers highlight regenerative products—Whole Foods and Sprouts are two large ones beginning to pay attention—demand for regenerative farmers will grow.

“As a brand sourcing regenerative ingredients, we feel our role is two-pronged: 1) to help support markets that reward farmers for implementing regenerative practices, and 2) to help tell the story of why regenerative farming matters.

“I’m also very encouraged by the new Inflation Reduction Act,” Collins said, “which includes $19.5 billion in new conservation funding to support climate-smart agriculture. This funding stands to significantly expand sustainable farming practices over the next decade.”

Moonshot Snacks sources organic wheat from Dave and Serena Hedlin in Skagit Valley, Washington

Tackling racism and sexism in the technology sector

Collins is the first Black woman to found a privately held technology-based startup company that was valued at over $1 billion (Zume Pizza). Her efforts to address structural racism in business and technology continue with Moonshot—prioritizing more diverse and deeper skin tones in advertising, for example. Inclusivity is fundamentally important in the climate change arena—many of those most affected have the smallest voices. Moonshot’s “star people”—characters on its packaging— are gender fluid and body positive, and Collins seeks out investors who are women and people of color. She is encouraged by the innovation and creativity emerging in the Black business community.

“Black female founders are the quickest growing sector of founders today and are building some of the most exciting companies of the future. Yet less than 0.27% of all venture capital dollars went to Black female founders between 2018 and 2019, according to ProjectDiane. What we need is access to capital…”

Consumers want it, investors are there, so the time to act is now. COVID saw many people make personal sacrifices for the public good, and climate change and agrobiodiversity call for that same response, Collins noted in Forbes.

Why Moonshot?

Shooting for the moon: “Setting one’s goals or ambitions very high; to try to attain… something particularly difficult.” Moonshot as a name represents something audacious and simultaneously very simple—eating a climate-friendly snack. Why not invoke the moon when trying to rescue Earth?

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, 2022

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