Written by The Business Journal Staff
A new food tech startup in Fresno is looking to bridge the gap between local growers and health conscious consumers by marketing unique crops in a more exciting way.
The concept for Myplato was inspired by founder Jensen Vang’s own experience growing up on a farm in the Central Valley.
“I know from experience that producers face a lot of challenges in getting their product into the market,” he said. “There’s a tremendous lack of knowledge around food from different cultures, particularly here in the diverse Central Valley.”
Myplato uses a social media platform to connect producers and their crops with market owners, chefs and consumers. The site is currently undergoing beta testing with a pool of 71 users from around the world, but Vang said he hopes to highlight the work of local Hmong farmers since many of their crops are not readily familiar to local consumers.
“Lots of Hmong and Southeast Asian growers have crops that may seem ugly or smelly but are super good for you and have all kinds of applications,” Vang said.
To help consumers get used to the more exotic crops Myplato has begun reaching out to local chefs and markets and is producing farm-to-fork recipe ideas, all of which can be “pinned” directly onto a crop icon or message board within the site.
Vang has experience working with local farmers markets through his job as a food systems development manager in the planning and resource development branch of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, and said he has seen a lot of interest from throughout the local food scene.
Some of the local users beta testing the site are Chef Naomi Hendrix of RAW Fresno and Gibson Farm Market at Fresno State. The beta phase will continue for a few more months and then Vang said he hopes to incorporate user feedback before launching the site for the general public.
“This started out as kind of a hobby interest of mine since I grew up on a farm,” he said. “I also come from a food tech background in Silicon Valley so I got the experience and saw the opportunity here.”
Already Myplato has a team of four and is looking to move into workspace at the Bitwise South Stadium complex later this year.
“We’re excited. We want to go as big as possible with this and help truly represent the region as the food capital of the world,” Vang said.