Kashi Sehgal is no stranger to the Atlanta entrepreneurial scene. She was one of the originals working out of Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) and founded her first company – a market research messaging platform called Gigabark – 15 years ago in the city.
Her entrepreneurial journey is on a bit more of a scenic route these days. Sehgal is spending a good amount of her time on the roads of rural South Georgia, bouncing between farms for her latest startup, Retaaza.
Retaaza (a combination of English and Hindi words), is on a mission to “refresh how people think about the food system,” Sehgal told Hypepotamus. That means creating hyperlocal, flexible supply chains that connect Georgia’s agricultural ecosystem to urban businesses.
“The goal is to make local food more accessible, easier to find, and cheaper” by fixing the complicated state-level supply chains that traditionally make buying local produce more expensive.
At its core, Retaaza is designed as Georgia’s “ethical distributor.” Every day, the Retaaza team drives around the state to buy unsold food from farmers. That food is then delivered to Retaaza’s end users – Georgia businesses.
On top of helping reduce the greenhouse gasses created when food ends up in landfills, Retaaza helps companies meet corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals or build out employee wellness programs.
“We think businesses can be a tool for good. They can help by reinvesting in local communities by helping farmers,” she added. “Food is love. Food is medicine. And our growth is going to come as people buy into the fact that we can heal our communities and feed our community if we all just pitch in.”
The team now has four people on payroll. Seghal said the bootstrapped startup is currently in a “growth phase” as it looks to scale up the number of clients it has across the Metro Atlanta area.
Logistics Takes Center Stage
Supply chain and logistics is at the heart of what Retaaza does across the state of Georgia.
The for-profit social enterprise got off the ground during the pandemic, Sehgal told Hypepotamus. While many organizations worked to keep restaurants afloat during COVID-related closures, Sehgal started specifically to address the crucial farmer-side of the food supply chain equation.
The intersection of supply chain and food is something the Southeast tech scene knows well.
Hypepotamus readers will be very familiar with Goodr, a sustainable surplus food management platform matching restaurants with nonprofits that can distribute their food.
Founder Jasmine Crowe-Houston made a name for herself when she delivered a Ted Talk specifically on the logistics of food delivery, saying “hunger isn’t an issue of scarcity; it’s a matter of logistics.”
It was a big year over at Goodr, which is backed by Engage, Capital One Ventures, Backstage Capital, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta Emerging Markets, and other strategic investors.
The team has been busy opening up new grocery stores, pop-up stores, and student snack packs in a growing list of cities while working with some of the country’s largest corporations to end hunger.
Growing The Southeast’s AgTech Industry
Logistics-focused startups are just one part of the general AgTech scene growing in the Southeast. Some ventures, like Atlanta-based Gimme, are using artificial intelligence and computer vision to reshape how food service providers and grocery delivery companies get merchandise onto store shelves.
Others, like Kentucky-based AppHarvest, South Carolina-based AmplifiedAg, and North Carolina-based Pairwise are rethinking how we grow essential fruits, vegetables, and food items.
On the accelerator front, Alabama recently launched its inaugural cohort in the HudsonAlpha AgTech Investment Accelerator. Run in conjunction with the national program gener8tor, the AgTech accelerator’s first class includes startups from Alabama, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, and Spain.