Greg Shewmaker on why we can’t answer food’s most basic question: “What is in it?”

Unless we can measure nutrient density on the farm, regen ag will never deliver its promise. These are some of the questions we tackle in this check in interview with Greg Shewmaker, co founder of Teak Origin. Last time we talked about that most food you buy in the supermarket has hardly any nutrients in it.


This time we dive deeper into the differences and discover some very interesting data on organic vs non organic when looking at the nutrients at the farm gate, compared to the super market shelve. Be ready for another eye opening deep dive into nutrient density!

On today’s episode, we answer the question of how one can measure the nutrient density in food we intake. Those answers will be brought to light by Greg Shewmaker. He is the co-founder of TeakOrigin, a food data company that enables businesses and consumers to answer critical questions about their food. When is the right time to harvest? What are the post-harvest conversion nutrient levels? Are we getting what we’re paying for and how can food be used as its own navel and much more.

Starting with production, conversion, shipping, regulation, selling, and consumption, Greg’s company will help answer the question of whether everyone is getting the nutrient levels is paying for.

World’s Most Up To Date Reference of Nutrition

Greg discusses the essence of TeakOrigin and what they are exactly doing to help mankind. The thought of building the world’s most updated reference for nutrition came because of the need to have one and the absence of such in the industry. This has inspired him and his team to create an accurate source of information that can be accessible to both businesses and consumers.

“What we quickly realized is that nowhere in the world does an accurate source of information exist. So even if you could take an image of an apple, or even if you could use some form of AI. The information that we were comparing it to was essentially garbage. So do the chemistry and build this updated reference so that you can know where it lands in terms of nutrients” – Greg Shewmaker

The Classifier and Prediction Models

Aside from identifying key nutrients and its chemistry, Greg also takes this information and translates it into data models. He refers to these models as classifier and prediction. These models allow better understanding of the food group. In addition, it paves the way for comparison of the standard nutrition label. 

Because of this, people can identify the standard amount of nutrients for that produce and if what they are purchasing meets that standard. 

“So if the data says there’s supposed to be this amount of milligrams of vitamin C, or this level of glucose, or sucrose, or this amount of moisture antioxidants, in comparison to what you have, this gives you the individual differences between those two things and then it gives you an overall score. It will tell you based on the levels of nutrients, depending on that standard” – Greg Shewmaker

The Differences in Produce 

TeakOrigin is establishing the baseline of how accurate the information indicated in nutrition labels and websites is. Once food is harvested, it is essentially degrading in terms of nutrients. It is a race against time on how we can place fresh food on our tables. Key factors such as shipping, price and location of where food is produced can factor into the nutrients as well. 

“I think people are keen to have this information. It is a unique insight that we haven’t been able to see before. Retailers have an emotional response to the comparison of nutrient density over price. That always gets everyone’s attention, because there’s some surprises there. Some retailers are actually delivering high levels of nutrition versus the competitors that are known to have higher quality products. So that’s a surprise to a lot of people.” – Greg Shewmaker

Degrading of Nutrients

Greg addresses the question of how the nutrients the farmers produce never make it to the plate of the consumer. It’s natural for nutrients to degrade over time. Although, nowadays nutrients are degrading at faster rates than it should. There is the need to figure out the solution to this problem and bring fresh produce into the people’s doorsteps. 

“Nothing leaves the farm at a hundred percent. The whole entire supply chain is built around the fact that food leaves a harvest site at a 100%. Then you do some math and it degrades from there. It leaves at 10% of what should be. Sometimes it leaves at 700% of what should be. So I think that is going to become more and more important to establish that baseline effectively and efficiently on the farm. This will drive every other decision from that point forward.” – Greg Shewmaker

Other Important Points Discussed

Koen and Greg discussed these points in this episode:

  • The agenda Greg has planned for TeakOrigin in the following years
  • The pending work Greg has planned in the processed food industry
  • The importance of knowing what’s in your food in terms of tractability
  • What Greg would do if he would be in charge of a $1 billion investment portfolio

To know more about Greg and TeakOrigin and how you can know the nutrients in your food, download and listen to this episode.

Previous interview with Greg – There are hardly any nutrients in the food we eat


Greg Shewmaker is the Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of TeakOrigin. One day Greg asked the questions “what’s in my food?” and “what’s it doing to me/my family?” When the search for answers simply led to more questions, Greg decided to dedicate his life to understanding food and our food systems. Greg was the Founder of Food+Future, a multi-year exploration into the future of food with Target, IDEO, MIT and Intel. He also started two other international companies and was the Chief Merchant at the #2 e-commerce company in the world. His personal commitment to complete food transparency drives his efforts at TeakOrigin. Greg works with our partners around the globe to scale our efforts in ways that will help inform and enable better food decisions for everyone. The system TeakOrigin is building enables a user to accurately assess and understand what changes are taking place within a specific piece of food easily, cheaply and in real-time.

LinkedIn: linkedin/TeakOrigin-Inc
Facebook: fb/TeakOrigin
Instagram: @teakorigin
Twitter: @teakorigin

Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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4 comments on “Greg Shewmaker on why we can’t answer food’s most basic question: “What is in it?”

  1. Excellent podcast, objective, measurable data tells its own story.
    FindGoodFood does something similar but focused on adding value to consumers and farmers, rather than supermarkets.
    Also questions Dan Kittredge’s view that there is no defn of NDI.

  2. In ANZ, the nutrient density of organically certified produce has always (last 20 years) been lower than other fresh produce in supermarkets and retail outlets. This is because CO farmers have not paid any attention to the soil, other than ensuring they are chem-free.

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