If you’re familiar with Aidan Mouat and someone asks you who is the smartest person you know who is affiliated with the produce industry, he’s probably the one who comes to mind.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Emory University in Atlanta and a few years later received a doctorate from Northwestern University.
While working on his Ph.D., he and four others co-founded Chicago-based Hazel Technologies Inc., a post-harvest crop protection firm that provides biochemical solutions to extend produce shelf life. Mouat is CEO.
The technology Mouat invented with co-founder and chief technology officer Adam Preslar works with pretty much all fruits and vegetables.
So far, the company has focused on 12-15 crops where the biggest need seems to be. They include avocados, berries, stone fruit, apples, pears, cherries, melons and tropicals.
Mouat hopes to apply his technology to other forms of perishables, like cut meats and fish.
Despite his extensive scientific background, venturing into the world of agriculture was a bit of a learning curve for Mouat.
He and his cohorts spent months on the road meeting customers, conducting interviews and discovering industry members’ pain points related to produce shrinkage.
Hazel Technologies works with more than 100 grower/packer partners in more than 12 countries.
When customers choose the company’s technology, the firm sticks around to help them understand how it works and helps monitor the results, he said.
“We’re in customer service,” Mouat said. “We’re here to serve the industry.”
Mouat thrives on developing relationships and understanding the needs of his customers.
Hazel Technologies also works with a dozen or so academic organizations including the University of California, Davis, the University of Florida and other post-harvest science organizations.
“We bring the power of that knowledge base to our customers,” he said.
Matt Walker, managing director at SG2 Ventures, a Chicago-based food and agriculture venture fund and lead investor in Hazel Technologies, described Mouat as “incredibly articulate, intelligent and well-rounded.”
“He has a uniquely deep understanding of the produce supply chain,” he said.
In addition to his company duties, Aidan serves as an advisory board member at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship at Northwestern and as a member of the board of advisers for Lilac Solutions, a company that developed innovative technology for lithium extraction.
Diversity is evident among Hazel Technologies’ 30-person workforce. About 60% of the employees are women, and there are eight ethnicities who speak five languages.
Mouat said the company has a cause that employees are excited about.
“We want to be a solution about feeding the world,” he said.