• Todd Petrella

Home Harvest: The Venture That Will Change The Produce World

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

Have you ever found yourself in the produce section of the grocery store, just marveling at the wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. You might wonder about a whole bunch of things. Where does it all come from? Is it all fresh? What’s in it? And many more. Personally, I’ve heard a whole bunch of stories about the secrets of the produce section. I’ve heard that fruits and veggies are artificially colored to look more appealing to the customer. I’ve heard that they are all genetically modified to be bigger and last longer. I’ve also heard that a lot of fresh and completely edible produce is just thrown away simply because it doesn’t look good.


That makes me wonder. Is the “fresh” produce section of the grocery store really fresh? Or is it all just a facade? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to truly know where your produce came from and how it was grown? Luckily, two young entrepreneurs are looking into this and are in the process of creating a platform to help with this: Home Harvest.


Home Harvest logo - H-shaped fences with plants growing in the middle
Home Harvest

Home Harvest is a marketplace app that allows gardeners and home growers to sell produce that they have grown themselves to buyers looking for fresh, local, homegrown produce. Do you have a garden where you grow all sorts of different things? With Home Harvest, you can sell some of that produce. Are you a buyer in need of produce that is guaranteed to be local and fresh? With Home Harvest, you can find exactly that. The concept was created by Zane Fracek and Jackson Gaffney, two great fellow students that I had the pleasure of working with in the Ratcliffe Eco-Entrepreneurship Fellows class this past Spring. I recently had the chance to meet with them and conduct a small interview about the initial idea for Home Harvest, up to winning the Ratcliffe award.


And if Ratcliffe and Eco Entrepreneurship sound familiar, that’s because I also wrote an interview post about Samuel Koeck and his idea to save coral reefs: Coral Connectors. Be sure to check out that interview too! Keep on reading below to see the interview with Jackson and Zane for Home Harvest.


So, who are Zane and Jackson? Zane Fracek is a sophomore finance major at UD. He’s a member of the UD investment club and he likes to run and play guitar. Also, he is Jackson’s longtime spikeball partner, and secondly, his friend. Jackson Gaffney is a sophomore business analytics major, and a member of UD’s business fraternity. “Go Birds!” He finished with when stumped on trying to add something else to his little autobiography.

Left - Zane Fracek, Right - Jackson Gaffney

How did you guys come up with your idea? What led to the creation of Home Harvest?


Jackson: As you recall, we were pitching a vertical farm that would ship directly to the consumer for the entirety of the year, until the last week and a half of the semester. All of a sudden, I realized that if we actually wanted this to work, to start a legitimate vertical farm to ship produce to people, we would have to ask for millions of dollars. I was like, “how would we get rid of the overhead for this project? Why can’t I just sell it?” And then all of a sudden *snap* that’s like Airbnb, but for vegetables. Like, if we were to build a hotel (to compare to a vertical farm), we have to have all this overhead for rooms and bathrooms, so why not just sell something we already have? That’s how it started and then I told Zane about it.


Zane, laughing: Yeah, for a while, we were calling it VeggieBnb.


J, also laughing: We were, we were calling it VeggieBnb. Basically, it was how can we get rid of all the overhead we would have in our last idea, because we were super unpassionate by the end.


Z: He came up with that idea 2 weeks before the end of the class. We just let it simmer for a couple days, and then we came back and said, “This is it! This is what we’re excited about.” We went to work, and came up with something in the last week.


Before moving on to the next question, Zane and Jackson shared some details about themselves that also contributed to the creation of Home Harvest. Zane is vegan, and Jackson grows his own peppers, and these two facts had their minds focused on agriculture. Farmers, small gardeners, and potential buyers also liked the idea.


Bunch of fresh, green bell peppers
Fresh peppers - image by Mark Stebnicki on Pexels

What challenges did you guys experience? I know you said your original idea had gone stale, but what else did you encounter?


Z: I’d say one of the big ones was that we thought we were going into a space where there was no competition at all. We thought our closest competition would be someone selling vegetables on Ebay, which doesn’t really happen, so we thought we were in the clear for that. But, we did some research and found a similar app that’s very recent that was trying to do a similar thing. And we were like, “Oh no, they beat us to it.” But after talking to our advisor, [our professors] David, and Mike, they said “Don’t think about it that way. They just proved that your business model works, people will use it, and the world is big enough for a Lyft and an Uber.”


J: Yeah, after finding that out, we spent the whole day panicking, but they’re only in select cities and they don’t use small gardeners for their niche, which is what we are doing.


Z: Like we mentioned before, the time crunch was a bit of an issue too. In the last week, we talked to pretty much anyone who would listen about our new idea, and this way, we were able to anticipate the questions and feedback we’d receive at the competition.


What was the final straw that pushed you guys to pivot from your original idea to Home Harvest?


Z: Well, what happened is that Jackson had the idea, and it just sat there for a couple of days. We would bring it up, like, “Veggiebnb,” and talk about it. As it was simmering, it clicked one day that this was what we wanted to do, and we switched.


J: We got together one night, and we started working on the presentation for Home Harvest, just to see how far we would get. In 2 hours, we were more happy with that presentation than we were with the vertical farming one, which we had made over the course of three months. I think this was also a turning point.


Z: We also thought about, and I believe that one of the judges brought this up after the presentation, and realized that we could have a big impact with not a lot of money. An app is easily scalable, and we are both more comfortable with being web-based rather than doing something on the engineering side.


Assortment of corn, peppers, cucumbers, and jalapenos
Summer veggies - Image by Adonyi Gabor on Pexels

How did it feel to win the REEF award?


Z: It was definitely exciting. And rewarding. The work we put in paid off. I was also excited because it meant we got to keep our relationship with [our advisor] Christina, David, and Mike.

The biggest award, honestly, is seeing other people that believe in you, like random people that have never heard your idea before, and then also getting that ongoing support from people who have been around the block and have started businesses before, they know what they’re doing. So yeah, just exciting, rewarding.


J: One thing I said the day before our pitch was, “Zane, I’m exhausted working on this nonstop, but if we win, we’re just getting started.” That was exciting to be like, “I’ve put so much passion and effort into this project.” I was sick as a dog one day, and still I was up until 1 in the morning working on this presentation with Zane. I don’t know, it was definitely the joy of continuing the passion that I felt, that was there. I got roped into the work.


Z: It was funny. We were both thinking that after putting in all this work and doing the presentation that we would be done. Things would get easier. But then… if we end up winning, and we’re committed to this, then it gets a whole lot harder, actually.


And lastly, what are the next steps for Home Harvest? You can be as detailed or as vague as you would like.


Z: Yeah, so we’ll be talking with David and Mike soon, and we’ll be deciding our next steps as a team and get some advice. We’re still waiting to hear back about the funding and how that works. But for me, the project is always in the back of my mind. I’ll be driving and I’ll see some place that looks really cool. Even today, I saw this church that had a produce charity drop off, and I asked Siri to create a reminder for that, because this church could be someone we could potentially contact and build a connection with. That’s kinda the most we can do right now as we wait.


J: The biggest step is waiting for the funding right now, but what I would like to start working on is marketing towards the average-Joe that likes to garden.


Z: And one last thing I can say, we’ve been asking different people about developing our app, and we’ve found one that works within our budget and can have our app ready with all the features we want in 2 to 4 months, so that’s exciting too.


It was great meeting with Zane and Jackson and gaining some insight into their venture. I'm super excited for them and hope that their idea takes off! If you would like to see their progress and/or reach out to them, they just created an Instagram page: @homeharvestde. Go follow them!


Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend!


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